Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Tree Lighting Bomb Scare Hits Home For Portland Teen

By Talon Bronson
Youth Journalism International
PORTLAND, Oregon, U.S.A. – I’m not much of a holiday spirit kind of guy, but I love the Christmas tree lighting celebration in Portland. I understand why the carols and the cocoa draw thousands of people to the ceremony each year.
What I can’t understand is why a young man my age would want to blow it all up.
I was there with my family in Pioneer Courthouse Square last Friday for the holiday festivities, but it wasn’t until I got home that I learned federal agents had arrested 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, accusing him of plotting to set off a bomb there.
The day of the tree lighting was a crisp fall day, though it felt like winter. I was simply glad that the bipolar weather that had recently decided to nest upon the valley’s surface was giving the rain a break.
In Portland, we are definitely used to feeling soggy, since rain is prevalent most of the year. But my family had come to the city for the day to see the tree lighting, and I wasn’t looking forward to standing in the open public square without an umbrella as the drops poured down.
We got to the square at about 5:45 p.m. My nose was numb, and I could see the red tinge of chill on my sister’s cheeks. But hey, like I said, no rain.
The tree lighting in Portland is a beautiful thing, and even for me – someone who has never professed to be much of a ‘holiday spirit’ kind of guy – it really is fantastic.
Everyone is smiling, everyone is singing (well, almost everyone . . . you can’t have a crowd of well over a couple thousand, and not expect a few grinches, I suppose) and cups of cocoa and coffee are in nearly every hand.
Cocoa says Christmas for me, and a deep whiff of peppermint-flavored chocolate makes the scene of the tree, the band on stage, and the people, just perfect.
So I will always wonder why someone would want to destroy such a thing.
The night really was just right. It was cold, but I liked it that way. We were there for a Christmas tree lighting, after all, and lights and trees should simply not meet, unless the weather has dropped to at least 40 degrees.
Portland Mayor Sam Adams was on stage with a youth choir and members of the band Pink Martini. Christmas songs were sung, all building up, of course, to the appearance of Santa, who would light the tree.
My family was having a blast, and I was, too. In truth, I noticed nothing unusual. Everything felt festive and safe, and it continued to feel that way until I stepped into the front door of my apartment.
I shivered, kicked off my shoes, and removed my maroon neck warmer that one of my sisters gave me last Christmas. It was much warmer inside than out, that was for sure.
I called out to my roommates to let them know I was home and almost immediately, they greeted with a question.
“Talon! Were you at the tree lighting?”
Because of their work schedules, neither of my roommates had been able to go. I walked into the front room and found my roommate Kaitlyn bent over her computer, concentrating on the screen before her.
“Yeah.” I said. “I just got back from it.”
“Dude,” said Kaitlyn, “Someone tried to blow it up!”
That really was a strange thing to hear, especially after I’d been feeling so uncharacteristically festive the whole night. Like I said, I’m not much of a holiday man, and her words clashed horribly with the taste of eggnog still on my tongue.
Kaitlyn turned her computer to me, showing the article that someone had shared over Facebook.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud. His picture was right beside the article. He was 19, the same age as me, and he had been involved in a plot to bomb the tree lighting.
Immediately my mind flashed to the scene I had been part of no less than an hour earlier, to all the people, to the cocoa.
“No way,” I said.
“Glad you’re okay, buddy.” My other roommate, Matt, patted me on the back.
As I read further, I learned that no one in the square was ever in any actual danger. The bomb had been a fake and the whole thing had been a sting operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The more I read, the stranger it all felt, and the more conflicted I became over what I thought about what had almost happened, and what had actually happened.
A 19-year-old had been arrested for terrorism – jeez, he was no older than me!
“Wow.” For a time, it was all I could say.
Since then, I’ve read many reports about that night, and in some ways, I’ve become more confused.
Words like ‘entrapment’ have entered the picture, showing once again that nothing is ever in black and white.
But putting all that aside, I still feel like I’ve had a strange revelation.
I’m no saint, but I am a good enough person that I wouldn’t want innocents to die. And I just can’t seem to get it out of my head that there are people who do.
There are people among us with hate inside them strong enough to be willing to push the button that – had the bomb been real – would mean I couldn’t be writing this today.
I guess the world is a strange place. And, really, I had always intellectually been aware of that. But when I think about the fact that my family was there, in the very spot where a tragedy could easily have occurred, where a horrendous crime was almost committed, it’s even stranger for me.
It’s the first time I’ve known in my gut that the world is a crazy place.
I’m happy to still be here, and wish you all happy holidays.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Seeing Her Korea With Fresh Eyes


The young woman pictured above is Minha Lee, a native of Korea and a YJI alum.

We first met Minha in 2004 when she was a young teenager growing up in Minnesota, looking for a place to write. We even had the pleasure of meeting her whole family one summer when their travels brought them to the U.S. East Coast.

Minha's time as a YJI writer spanned five years, but our friendship didn't end with her last piece, which I am featuring today.

Born in Seoul, she spent her early years in Korea, Romania and Ukraine before moving to the United States at age 11. Minha spent her teen years in Minnesota and is currently an art student at the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York City.

She returned to Korea for a visit a few years ago and saw her country with fresh eyes. She shared her observations and thoughts with YJI's readers in a package of stories that touched on the nation's language, its love of soju, the busy commercial side of the country and her own family's history.

She also offered some advice on correcting self-absorbed American teens by having them spend a month in Korean schools.

You can see the whole package, along with Minha's terrific pictures here: http://tinyurl.com/22klsus.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

YJI Wishes Happy Birthday to Dutch Writer and Photographer

Happy birthday to Cara Nelissen, who turned 19 today.
Cara is an award-winning YJI writer, capturing the prestigious Frank Keegan "Take No Prisoners" Award for News earlier this year.

She was the first to win and you can see her here, posing with her prize, a beautiful crystal trophy with a globe atop it. The globe actually spins!

Cara, who was accepted as a YJI student from the Netherlands in September 2009, jumped in with both feet.

She's written almost every kind of story, from first person advice about succeeding in art classs (her first piece for YJI) to movie reviews and first-hand accounts of street demonstrations in Istanbul, snowstorms that stranded travelers in her own country and Bastille Day celebrations in Paris. She translated a piece by Connecticut YJI student Yelena Samofalova about an upcoming Youth Peace Summit into Dutch and much, much more. She takes great photographs, too.

Like many of YJI's reporters around the globe, Cara is doing all this writing in a second language.

Her most recent work is an interesting account about an ancient cemetery in the Dutch town of Ermelo and the efforts to preserve it. You can read it here:  http://tinyurl.com/298v6c6.

She won our first Keegan award for her coverage of a controversial subject in her homeland -- the helper "Black Pete" that travels with Sinterklaas delivering presents in early December. Her story told how some in the Netherlands viewed the character as racist, while others saw it as a harmless, charming tradition. We'll steer blog readers to that story soon, as St. Nicholas Eve is rapidly approaching.

Until then, please join us in wishing Cara a happy birthday!

New Harry Potter will touch hearts of fans

By Roohani Deshpande
Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India -- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, which opens in a world which is dark and dangerous, resulting from the rise of Lord Voldemort, lives up to the high expectations of its fans.
The film is gripping and surprisingly emotional.
The movie follows the story of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his two best friends seeking "horcruxes" which are Voldemort's secret to immortality, where they must find and destroy the evil which the Dark Lord has left behind - all without the powerful support of their deceased headmaster Albus Dumbledore, and therefore without the slightest idea of how to do so.
The great school of wizardry and witchcraft, Hogwarts, isn't pictured at all; the three are on their own.
As the trio searches for the things which made Voldemort the Dark Lord that he is, they uncover the existence of three most powerful objects in the wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows.

The film is an impressive adaptation of the first part of J.K. Rowling's intricate seventh book of the famous Harry Potter series. It follows the book closer than preceding movies in the series -- and that makes it brilliant.
Directed by David Yates, produced by David Heyman and David Barron, the movie stars Radcliffe along with Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry's best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
Yates has definitely gotten better since The Order of the Phoenix, never letting us forget that we are seeing a world at war, where the evil is proving to be too overwhelming for the good.
The story is quite dark and the movie has done justice to it with exceptional camera work - but young children might find it scary!
The lead stars have performed to their best potential and at no point will they disappoint you.
Sadly, Alan Rickman's Professor Snape hardly comes into the picture this time.
But the good part is that the plot holes and loops in the previous films have now been resolved.
The action rolls along, with some impressive special effects.
It is a slight disappointment that the rest of the ride will come next year. But until then, this movie would certainly touch the hearts of all the true Potter fans out there with its truly spectacular finish.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Young Reporter Sickened By Black Friday

YJI reporter Brice Birdsall of Oregon weighed in two years ago on the Black Friday trampling death and what it said about American consumer culture.
Read her piece below.

December 1, 2008
 -- Opinion --
Black Friday sickens
By Brice Birdsall
Junior Reporter, Youth Journalism InternationalPortland, Oregon, U.S.A. – Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, where it is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season.
I feel that Black Friday is basically outing how consumer-based we as Americans are.
Let me explain.
Over the weekend, I read an article saying that a temporary employee at a Wal-Mart store in Long Island, N.Y. was trampled to death by early morning shoppers on Black Friday when he was opening the doors.
That sickens me.
Consumers killing a man to buy things? That doesn't make any sense to me, even if it was an accident.
Material things will be there forever but our lives might not be. So why does the drive to spend money on things that can be replaced come before a human life?
Does that make sense to you? It doesn't to me.
Read other Black Friday opinions - pro and con - and much more here: ttp://tinyurl.com/2w2zlz6

Thursday, November 25, 2010

In Defense of Black Friday

When a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death two years ago on Black Friday, many recoiled at the retail scene, but YJI reporter Leah Igdalsky of Connecticut defended the traditional shopping day:

December 1, 2008
-- Opinion --
Black Friday's not all bad, I promise
By Leah Igdalsky
West Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Black Friday has gotten a bad name.
The day after Thanksgiving has traditionally marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Businesses employ tactics like doorbusters, giveaways and sales to bring themselves into the black (to turn a profit).
Many Americans look down on Black Friday, perhaps the busiest shopping day of the year.
Crowded stores and heavy traffic plague Black Friday, and crazed shoppers push and shove, sometimes injuring other customers.
This year, a Long Island Wal-Mart clerk was trampled by a stampede of shoppers before the store’s 5 a.m. opening.
Despite these problems, people still show up in droves to find the best deals and work off their turkey comas.
And really, Black Friday isn’t all bad.
Read the rest of Leah's piece here: http://tinyurl.com/372ws9z

Deadly Deals

The day after Thanksgiving is known in some countries as Black Friday because retailers hope they'll be "in the black" as the Christmas shopping season begins. Two years ago, though, a Wal-Mart employee died when he was trampled to death by shoppers eager to get in the door, compelling YJI reporter Kiernan Majerus-Colllins to weigh in with this commentary:

December 1, 2008
-- Opinion --
Dying for a deal
By Kiernan Majerus-Collins
Reporter, Youth Journalism International

The greed of consumer Americans can only go so far, right? I know some are desperate for a deal, but it’s not like they’d kill anyone?
Early Friday morning ,a part-time Wal-Mart worker in New York was trampled to death by scores of over-competitive shoppers looking for the best price on whatever they wanted to buy. The man had the job of opening the doors, and must have been surprised when the doors busted open, falling on him. The two thousand outside came storming in, using the employee’s body as a doormat.
See the whole story

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving After a Hurricane

YJI writer Samantha Perez, a native of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, wrote a moving year-long journal about her life during and after Hurricane Katrina hit her town in 2005, at the start of her senior year of high school.
Within this incredible story is one Thanksgiving.
I don't recommend reading just a single piece of Sam's work, because every word is worth your time. But today, as Americans prepare for a holiday of bounty and gratitude, here's a glimpse of her family's Thanksgiving table that year:

November 25, 2005
-- Hurricane Journal --
Giving thanks for good friends
By Samantha Perez
Friday, Nov. 25, , Ponchatoula , Louisiana  
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t like any Thanksgiving I’ve ever had before. I don’t think it was bad, though. It really wasn’t bad. It was just … different. It’s something of the new life, not the old one where everyone piled around our table and ate turkey and casserole and good bread from the bakery.
I woke up yesterday morning, but instead of smelling the warm cooking from the kitchen, I just smelled the camper. Plastic smell. I woke up and got dressed, and then I sat myself down and wrote for a long time. Writing is therapy.
Mom went to her parents in the house trailer they are living in now. She went there to cook because cooking is virtually impossible in the camper. Dad and I stayed here until she called a little after , telling us that our Thanksgiving spaghetti was ready.
To read the rest of that entry, click here: http://tinyurl.com/248ye24
To read the entire package of Katrina journals, get comfortable and click here: http://tinyurl.com/2ftm3ke

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Miley Cyrus Woke Him Up On Thanksgiving Morning

Matt Middleton, a YJI reporter in Pennsylvania, shares with readers a memorable Thanksgiving morning when he was awakened by none other than Miley Cyrus.

Read Matt's piece here: http://tinyurl.com/23bhhls

That's not Matt driving the Mr. Peanutmobile above, by the way. It's just another cool snapshot of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, taken by YJI reporter Kathryn Middleton.

The Inside Scoop on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Click Here

Millions of people crowd into Manhattan each year for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and still more are glued to their television sets, wondering what it must be like to be right there in New York City.
YJI reporter Kathryn Middleton is one of those people. As a New Jersey high school student, she wrote this piece for YJI about the thrill of watching the parade each Thanksgiving with her family. She also took some really awesome photos, including the one above of Snoopy, as everybody's favorite World War I Flying Ace.

December 1, 2008
 -- Reporter's notebook --
A happy Thanksgiving along the Macy's Parade route
By Kathryn Middleton
New York City – Where else but in New York can you join a crowd of thousands, gaze up at massive balloons passing by and shout holiday greetings in unison with strangers across the street?
It’s a tradition in my family to travel to New York City to meet up with aunts, uncles and cousins to enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person.
This was my third time seeing the parade in New York, and every time it’s just as exciting.
Read the rest of Kathryn's piece and more photos, click here: http://tinyurl.com/2e4elrh

Harry Potter remains magical in Deathly Hallows Part 1

By Nancy Hsu in BRISBANE, Australia --

With all the calibre and heart-wrenching warmness of the previous Harry Potter movies, the latest installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, does not disappoint. To describe the movie without giving anything away, I have to say that I laughed, cowered in fear, cheered in fights, cried for loss and welled up with joy for victory.

The movie began with many a heartbreak, with memory loss and death of loved ones, the tears already forming. By the end of the movie, the tears were rolling down my cheeks in utter heartbreak. Every discourse and emotion presented in previous Harry Potter movies is accentuated in this one. Relationships form between characters that leave you sighing in satisfaction.

The once not-yet-developed Harry, Ron and Hermione have now matured into young adults who, if I must say, are pretty darn fine looking -- especially Emma Watson (who plays Hermione) has turned into a beautiful young woman who exuberated strength and courage in her character. Harry and Ron, as usual, showed their strength in sacrificing their lives to defy Voldemort while also showing their care for Hermione and protecting her, except this time, the movie brings their characters to a whole other level.

The movie ends on a cliffhanger, leaving you unsatisfied and craving the release of the second movie. I, for one, cannot wait!

Opting Out of Stuffing

As a high school senior, YJI reporter Michel Lee of California took a stand against stuffing at Thanksgiving. Not only did she not partake of any turkey (she's a vegetarian), she also refused to stuff herself.

November 27, 2006
Gluttony? No thanks
By Michel Lee
I didn’t eat much this Thanksgiving.
Oh, the HORROR! Your head spins, your stomach growls menacingly, and you reach across the table to slap some sense into this girl.
What was it, you ask? Diet? Diabetes? Amputation? Masochism? A monastic vow?
No, my reason for not submitting to the gluttonous festivities of Turkey Day are none of those above reasons, nor is it related to the fact that I am vegetarian. It is simply that I, lover of mashed potatoes and tofu turkey, was not hungry. To keep reading, click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/2fwuzbn


The Boy In The Hot Pink Cast

Here's Conrad Sloane, a YJI teen reporter in Georgia. He's also a proud member of the Civil Air Patrol who, for a time, went about his duties wearing a hot pink cast. He wrote about it in his first piece for YJI this fall. You'll want to hear his story directly from him:

Hook shots in a hot pink cast

By Conrad Sloane

Junior Reporter, Youth Journalism International

KENNESAW, Georgia, U.S.A. – Ever play knockout? Ever win knockout? Ever done both of those things while wearing a hot pink cast?

Hi. I'm Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Conrad Sloane, a first year male freshman cadet in the Civil Air Patrol Program in Atlanta, Georgia.

Last fall, I was playing a football game in the Salvation Army Football League when I broke my left leg while defending a pass. Laying there on the ground, quite a few things ran through my mind, including what was going to happen at school when I got back.

What am I going to do about getting to school? How am I going to get around? Who's going to carry my backpack? Will I still be able to wear my uniform? What will my friends think?

These and many more questions awaited answers that long day.

That first Monday back, I arrived at school to find myself welcomed back warmly and with open arms ... literally.

People left and right kept on wanting to give me hugs, so much so that it got tiring by the end of the day with people still wanting to hug me.

I knew I had quite a few friends, but this was astonishing! Not only were people I rarely said hi to asking me how I felt, they were asking me if they could do anything to help me. It really just blew me away. Read the whole story

Monday, November 22, 2010

Brilliance In Pen and Ink Drawings

Every student who sticks with YJI for any length of time shines in his or her own way. Two of our cartoonists were especially prolific in their high school years. One is Justin Skaradosky of Connecticut, U.S.A., a quiet and intelligent young man whose brilliance emerged time and time again through his art. He constantly amazed us with a seemingly endless supply of cartoons that were both funny and thought-provoking.
We were thrilled to have his active participation for years and are still using his work, more than a year after his graduation.
One of his cartoons was published today at http://www.readthetattoo.com/, and the one above is a personal favorite of mine from 2006. If you do check out his work published today, don't stop there. Find Justin in the writer's index, at the top of the left hand side of the homepage, highlighted in yellow. You can find links to all his work there. It's great stuff.
Justin, now in college, honored us earlier this year by writing a review of YJI for http://www.greatnonprofits.org/, which helps evaluate non-profit organizations.
An excerpt of Justin's review is below:
In a world that increasingly emphasizes the importance of math and sciences, the only artistic output most can find in high school is through delicately arranging bar graphs on their TI-83. I ruled out high school art classes because I didn't want to paint pictures of my cat or make pots to put fancy flowers in. I needed a place where my opinion could be heard and at the same time build a portfolio for myself ... I found my niche in the group as a cartoonist, and the group became a stepping stone for who I am today. I gained self confidence and a desire to express my opinion that I had failed to find elsewhere.
Read the rest of what Justin wrote by following this link: http://tinyurl.com/3948cfg

YJI Egyptian Student Attending Global Youth Summit

We love to share the good news about our high achieving students at Youth Journalism International.

Jessica Elsayed, a teen writer who lives in Egypt, is attending the Global Youth Summit 2010 in London this week.

She's thrilled to be there, and we're excited for her. We know they made an excellent choice in selecting Jessica, a bright, enthusiastic and good-hearted young woman who is eager to make a difference in our world.

She's already making a difference through her work with YJI.

Her first piece for YJI, which she wrote last spring, was her account of a speech in Alexandria, Egypt, by Nobel Prize winner Ahmed Zewail, a reknowned chemist and a native of Egypt. The photo below is one she took of the Alexandria Creativity Center, where Zewail spoke.

Click Here

A Genius Comes Home to Egypt
By Jessica Elsayed
Junior reporter, Youth Journalism International
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – Proud and raggedy, the yellow and black taxi I’m riding in speeds by the very place an Egyptian-born Nobel Prize winner Ahmed Zewail spent his early years aspiring to go farther than any humble Alexandria University student ever had before.
Captured by the mere excitement of seeing Zewail in flesh and bones, I knew the taxi driver sensed my enthusiasm as I repeatedly looked out the window, then hurriedly scratched these comments.
When I told my friends I was going to see him, they laughed and said, “You can barely pass chemistry class.”
The truth is, I am not captivated by Zewail’s chemical genius, but by his pure intellect and simple yet dense theories on the world, by his success in breaking through in a place where only people with powerful connections and money can succeed and most of all, by his belief that all of us have the potential to make something of ourselves.

To read the rest of Jessica's piece, click here: http://tinyurl.com/37xabl9

Jessica's most recent contribution was the ongoing Ramadan journal that ran on this blog and in The Tattoo international teen newspaper (http://www.readthetattoo.com/)

Congratulations, Jessica, on being part of the Global Youth Summit in London. We're proud to have you as an active student at Youth Journalism International!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What Does ABBA's "Dancing Queen" Have To Do With Thanksgiving?

YJI students have shared their holidays with readers for many years now. As a high school sophomore in Connecticut four years ago, Rachel Glogowski wrote about her family's theatrical Thanksgiving tradition.

Playing around on Thanksgiving
By Rachel Glogowski
For my 12 younger cousins and I, today – the Wednesday before Thanksgiving – is a time of preparation.
Although most of us cousins don’t do an extreme amount of cooking for Turkey Day, we prepare in our own way for another family tradition – the annual Thanksgiving Play.
The Play, which deserves a capitalized title, is a cute little production that...  to read the rest of Rachel's piece, and find out where ABBA fits in, click here: http://tinyurl.com/359ytex

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Putting A Korean-Vegetarian Spin on Thanksgiving

Michel Lee was a teen living in California and a reporter for Youth Journalism International in 2005 when she shared with readers her family's lovely approach to the classic American holiday of Thanksgiving.
Michel's piece will give pause to anyone who knows and loves Thanksgiving the way it's typically celebrated, and will offer a fresh perspective on an old tradition.

Between Plymouth Rock and a hard place
By Michel Lee
Thanksgiving is truly a unique experience in the Lee household. 
In addition to the fact that all seven of us are extremely hearty eaters, we are all vegetarians (with the exception of my father). Now, normally, being vegetarian wouldn't be such a problem.
But at Thanksgiving, when families across the United States celebrate the quintessential American holiday, our family finds itself between Plymouth Rock and a hard place.
Check out the rest of Michel's insightful piece here: http://tinyurl.com/25q2fbx

Where In The World Are YJI Students?

We recently welcomed a new batch of YJI students our ever-expanding roster.

Before we can bring them aboard, they have to fill out an extensive application form that tells us a lot about them. We learn something about who they are, where they come from and what they think and feel about newspapers, their own abilities and aspirations.

I can't begin to describe how impressive these young people are and how much hope they give me for the future.

They're all great, and most are stunningly exceptional.

They want to do well, they want to contribute, they want to learn and they want to get to know each other. It's a great beginning for them with YJI, but even more, it's terrific to think that young people like these are tomorrow's leaders.

We've added just over 90 students since July and more are waiting to get in. Just for fun, I tallied up where those students currently live. Most are natives of their home country, but a few are immigrants. Anyway, we admitted 40 newcomers from the United States, and 51 from other countries representing the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.

But just where in the world are they coming from?

Here's the international breakdown of YJI students admitted since July:

Armenia, Bahrain, Canada (5), Egypt, England (13), Fiji, India (8), Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Malaysia (2), Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan (2), Philippines, Scotland (2), South Africa (4), Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Uganda (2), United States (40)

For those who are curious about our Americans, here's the breakdown of newcomers, just since July, by state:
Connecticut (4), California (7), Florida (3), Illinois (2), Maryland (2), Missouri (2), Massachusetts, Mississippi (2), Michigan (3), New Jersey (2), North Carolina,  Oregon, Pennsylvania (2), Tennessee, Texas (6), Virginia

Friday, November 19, 2010

Show us the view from your window!

To help give everyone a sense of the worldwide scope of Youth Journalism International, we'd love to show some pictures that make the case. You'll see a new feature on our blog -- YJIBlog.org -- that displays photographs taken at the homes of our readers and students. They've just snapped a photo of the view from their windows, which is sometimes spectacular and always interesting.
We've love to include your photo, too! Just take a picture looking out your window and email it to youthjournalisminternational@gmail.com. Please include the city or town where you live and the province and country, if it's not obvious. By sending us a picture, you are consenting to let us display it as part of our Windows on the World feature and to use it to help Youth Journalism International. We are so grateful for your assistance.
We look forward to seeing what comes in!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

As Promised, the Ultimate Potter Palooza

Click HereWe've been telling you much of this week about our decade of coverage of the adventures of the boy wizard. Now that diehard fans are nearly heading out to the theater, it's time to hand over the goods.

In 2007, as author J.K. Rowling's last book in the wildy popular series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was hitting bookstores, YJI writers worldwide pulled together to bring readers a spectacular package.

We had reporters or photographers weighing in from Trinidad, Australia, Singapore, England and the United States with book reviews, tales from the bookstore, personal reflections on growing up with Harry and even a cartoon.

What are you waiting for? See it all at http://tinyurl.com/2bohez7.

Potter's 'Goblet' Holds Potent Magic

As the newest Harry Potter film inches ever nearer, we're giving readers and viewers a refresher course in all things Harry. Naturally, we haven't yet run out of Harry Potter flashbacks in YJI's files.
Our coverage began in 2000 and continued each year (except 2003; not sure what's up with that) until 2007, when we hit the motherlode of Harryobilia with a spectacular package. That's coming soon, so keep your eyes on the YJI blog if you are a Potter fan.
Without further adieu, we present YJI Connecticut reporter Rachel Glogowski's journalistic debut -- her 2006 movie review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

Harry Potter's magic remains strong in Goblet of Fire
By Rachel Glogowski
The fourth film of the spellbinding series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is just as magical as the others, if not more. 
To keep reading Rachel's review, go to http://tinyurl.com/2v7tj7u

Indian, American Youth Share Ideas at Recent Mumbai Forum

Pushkal Shivam, one of the Youth Journalism International reporters in Mumbai, India, recently attended a forum leading up to U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to his country. He wrote the story below, and took the accompanying photo of Indian panelist Rishab Shah, a second year student in economics and commerce.

By Pushkal Shivam
Youth Journalism International
MUMBAI, India – Before American President Barack Obama set foot on Indian soil, youth of India met here with their American counterparts to discuss issues ranging from climate change and terrorism to education and jobs.
The Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations, a Mumbai-based think tank, organized a panel discussion that included three Indian and three American youths.
American panelist Russell Mason, who works with the Mahindra Group, said that through the use of technology, American knowledge and resources can act as a supplement to India’s education system.
Building on that idea, Akanksha Mohla, an Indian who works with the Mahindra Group, said in the Indian context, “The wave is going to be led by technology of the internet on the mobile.”
Panelists addressed ticklish issues like outsourcing, intelligence exchange, U.S. aid to Pakistan, hikes in visa fees and whether the U.S. would support a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council with veto power.
Climate change stimulated the greatest response both from the youthful panel and its young audience.
Asked later about her expectations from Obama’s visit, American panelist Ali Rosen said, “I am hoping something concrete comes out of it.”
Rishab Shah, a panelist and second year student of the HR College of Commerce and Economics, said he expects “concrete headway on UNSC seat” for India.
Rosen, a former broadcast journalist, said she thinks India and the U.S. should seize this opportunity to enhance military cooperation. She said poverty alleviation in India is one issue where America could do more.
“I think U.S. has to admit they used Indian talent,” said Rosen. “U.S. has to give back.”
On the other hand, Shah said both nations should bolster strategic alliance and cooperation in the private sector.
“Politics on both sides” could mar Obama’s trip to India, Rosen said before the presidential visit. She added that the leaders should not try to address their domestic constituency during the visit.
From the audience, young Alastair Trueger who works with the Mahindra Group in India with corporate strategy said “Pakistan, nuclear cooperation and climate change” are three issues which could play spoilsport role during the visit.
“It’s likely that there will be plaudits and handshakes galore, but the real issues won’t be touched,” Trueger said.
Rosen said, and Trueger agreed, that youth from India and the U.S. should come together on a platform like this more often.
Shah said the role of youth in Indo-U.S. relation should be enhanced from mere tokenism to substantive participation in making policy.
Trueger who threw some tough questions at the panel, said the discussion was both interesting and “scrupulously polite.”  
Craig Johnson, superintendent of American School, chaired the panel. He said the idea was to “formulate an agenda that is sustainable” based on what the youth thought should be discussed during Obama’s visit to India and send the document to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and to the American president.
In a gesture of cross-cultural interaction, Johnson inaugurated the event by lighting a lamp and invoking Saraswati, who is considered the goddess of knowledge in Hindu mythology.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Potter Flashback: Harry is Growing Up

In 2005, YJI reporter Kassandra Ricci, then a teen living in Massachusetts, went out at midnight to get her hands on a copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" as soon as it came out.

To Kassandra's delight and amazement, she found that little Harry was growing up in all kinds of wonderful ways.

As we lead up to the release of the latest Harry Potter flick on Friday, we're reviewing the 10 years of coverage Youth Journalism International has offered of the boy wizard. Kassandra's piece is just the latest, but stay tuned, muggles, there's more of our Potter Palooza to come!

Attention muggles: Harry Potter is growing up
By Kassandra Ricci
I've always been a big Harry Potter fan, so naturally I attended a midnight party to get my copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince as soon as possible.
I rushed home to start reading what I hoped to be a good book. It turned out to better then a good. It was amazing.

Read the rest here: http://tinyurl.com/343wvpr

YJI Reviewer a "Prisoner" of Potter Magic

When the third Harry Potter film came out in 2004, Youth Journalism International reporter Katie Haire, a Connecticut teen, was ready to tell readers all about it. Catch that review below to refresh your Potter memories or get up to speed before the new film opens at the end of this week. By the way, this doesn't end our "Potter Palooza," so stay tuned because there's more to come!

A magical 'Harry Potter'
By Kate Haire
From the haunting opening tune to the melodic choral finish, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" sprinkled magic in the hearts of many ....
To read the rest, follow this link: http://tinyurl.com/333e4ke

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Teen Lashes Out at Explicit Media

We here at Youth Journalism International have a lot of faith in teenagers. We've worked with so many great young people that we have high hopes for the future of our world.
Junior reporter Cresonia Hsieh, a teen living in Knoxville, Tenn., U.S.A., weighed in recently about how the media - movies, music, magazines and television - make it tough for teens to keep on the right path. She's the girl who recently wrote a compelling piece about Tyler Clementi, who had been part of her church youth group when she lived in New Jersey.
In the photo, Cresonia is the one on the right.
Teens Bombarded By Bad Images To read the rest of what Cresonia had to say, click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/37gwbmu
By Cresonia Hsieh
KNOXVILLE, Tenn., U.S.A. -- Teens are constantly fighting a battle today to do and be the right thing.
But from music lyrics to explicit movie scenes, magazine headlines to dirty television advertisements, media constantly fills the young adults of 2010 with the wrong message.
As MTV would advise, just “live above the influence” but it is all too easy for teens to come across an advertisement luring its prey into the temptations of sex, drugs, and alcohol.
With just the flip of a switch, images of seductive Victoria Secret models flaunting nearly naked shimmering bodies in front of flashing cameras pop up, before it’s possible to change the channel.

Harry Casts a Spell With "Chamber of Secrets"

Our Potter Palooza continues, with a look back at a November, 2002 review of the second Harry Potter movie, written by YJI reporter Jen Plonski, who was at the time a teenager living in Connecticut: 

Harry Potter's magical new movie
By Jen Plonski
  With creatures that leap off the screen at you, music and sounds that make you jump out of your seat, and special effects that make even quidditch look real, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets casts quite a spell.
To read the rest of Jen's review, click here: http://tinyurl.com/32gten6

Dissing Harry Potter

The first Harry Potter movie, or the book it's based on, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone didn't thrill YJI reporter Kaishi Lee, who was a teen living in her native Singapore when she wrote in Decmber 2001 about how the film pales in comparison to Lord of the Rings.
In keeping with our build up to the opening of the latest Potter film, we present:

Harry Potter falls short of Lord of the Rings 
By Kaishi Lee
Life with magic, it's fantastic -- or so they say.
Please, I need help!
Someone out there please explain the concept of this enigma called Harry Potter.
Someone out there please explain the concept of this enigma called Harry Potter.

To read all of Kaishi's review, follow this link: http://tinyurl.com/2uvdkxt

A Decade of Harry Potter

More than 10 years ago, YJI reporter Katie Jordan wrote a story about a character that was taking her school and town by storm -- Harry Potter.
Click Here

Katie was in middle school then, a young teenager. She stuck with YJI and wrote many news stories and delightful columns as well as drew clever cartoons as one of our students. Today she's a college graduate and an editor for YJI.

But I digress. The new Harry Potter movie is coming out this week and in the interests of offering a refresher course, YJI is taking a trip down memory lane with Harry.

Our students -- Katie and many others -- have written quite a bit about Harry over the years. Let's start with our first piece, from April 10, 2000:

Bristol under Harry Potter's spell

By Katie Jordan

Harry Potter and his friends have practically invaded Bristol - children, teens, and adults all over the city are reading about them.

To keep reading, click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/2un646m

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eid Mubarak

Happy holidays to YJI's Muslim students, alumni and readers!

We send everyone best wishes for a wonderful feast, but also for good health, happiness and peace.

Thanks To All Those Who Give

Happy National Philanthropy Day!
It's National Philanthropy Day in the U.S. and Canada today.
I learned about it from GuideStar, an organization that helps donors determine where best to offer their gifts.
YJI is listed on GuideStar and also on http://www.greatnonprofits.org/, where we are ranked as a top-rated educational non-profit
organization. We've got over 50 reviews posted there, written by YJI students, alumni, parents, grandparents and professionals, all testifying to our work. If you haven't seen it, please give it a look.
In the meantime, we'd like to take this moment to recognize all the good people, organizations and corporations who have given of their time, talents, energy, expertise and hard-earned money to help us teach young journalists and build bridges between cultures worldwide through Youth Journalism International.
Thank you all.

Friday, November 12, 2010

King Tut, Here We Come

Coffinette for the viscera of Tutankhamun.

Youth Journalism International students from Connecticut and New York will meet up Saturday at "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," a special National Geographic exhibit at the Discovery Times Square Exposition in New York City.  We're all excited for the opportunity to see King Tut's artifacts for ourselves and then share the news with you!
The stunning photo above is from National Geographic.

Teen Suicide is the Saddest Story of All

A lot of people are paying attention to teen suicide now, and for good reason. But at Youth Journalism International, we've been on it since our award-winning package in 1996.

That was the year a group of our students spent researching death records to learn how teens had died in the past 15 years in the city of Bristol, Connecticut. Once they had that information, these brave young reporters tracked down the survivors of the teens who had taken their own lives -- and asked them to talk about it.

Understandably, some didn't want to, but other parents opened up, telling heartbreaking stories of the sons and daughters they loved, and then lost to suicide.

It was a tough project for our students, and one they've never forgotten. We haven't forgotten, either. We remember the difficult interviews, the emotional experience of attending a young person's funeral, coaching our students through those moments and the really hard work they did to bring it all together.

We did it in hopes that our work would bring some comfort to those who were grieving, some information to parents who may not realize their child is in danger, and most importantly, out of a desire to stop even one teen from making that awful choice.

Today, almost 15 years later, those stories -- and the many stories that followed on suicide and depression -- are among the best work that our readers return to time and again. They're also something that helps young people find us for the first time. We remain proud of our contribution to the important discussion of teen suicide.

You can see the original package and more at this link: http://tinyurl.com/3xm566b

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Goodspeed Offers 'Peachy' Show

By Francis Byrne
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
CHESTER, Connecticut, U.S.A. – The new musical James and the Giant Peach is an astounding production combining top-notch choreography and stellar vocalists.
The show, a Goodspeed Opera House production now at the Norma Terris Theatre, was really well written and obviously took a lot of effort.
Writer Timothy Allen McDonald says in his notes, “You’re about to enter our collective imaginations and I warn you it’s not always a pretty place.”
Well, I found it to be a very enjoyable place. It isn’t easy to condense a 123-page novel into a little over an hour, but McDonald did it, and he didn’t leave out the humor.
The humor adds to the blend of all the elements that combine to make a Broadway-worthy play.  It is truly the idealist’s performance; the theater-goer who wants perfection will find it here.
The story, based on the book by Roald Dahl, centers around a young boy named James. He is kind and has a good sense of moral values. His parents were devoured by a rhinoceros when it got loose and they were trying to protect him.  He is then forced to live with his greedy and self-centered aunts. 
While living with them, James is visited by a magician who gives him a spell that creates a peach of great proportions. The aunts want to make money off of the peach, but James and his talking insect friends run away with it and the chase is on. 
The dance group Pilobolus added to the performance. Their gymnastics represented the natural forces in the play such as clouds, trees and animals.           
The musical also features many top notch actors.
The two evil aunts Spiker and Sponge, played by Ruth Gottschall and Denny Dillon, respectively, provide comic relief, as they look funny together (one is short and stout, one is tall and thin), and sing well together.
The Centipede, played by Nick Gaswirth, is the pessimist who turns out to be all right in the end.
The most exceptional performer in the whole show is Justin Lawrence Hall, the 12-year-old who played James.  He sang and danced well beyond his years.
The accompanying band is very talented. Their work is an aspect of the production that a lot of people take for granted, but these musicians really help this performance to stick for me. They had to deal with a variety of tempos and styles of music that weren’t easy and they handled it beautifully. 
James and the Giant Peach runs until November 21 at the Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, Connecticut.
This is a five-star play, and you should go see it.
As McDonald wrote, this play is about bringing “you home to the family that loves you.”

Thanks to the Goodspeed Opera House for the great photos!

On Veterans Day, A Look at Normandy

Reporters from Youth Journalism International are literally all over the world, offering readers a fresh perspective on their own cities, towns and villages and also on the places they visit.
Today I found something that might especially speak to veterans and soldiers on this Veterans Day in America, but also to anyone who wants to see a peaceful world.
In 2005, Irish teen Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin visited the military cemeteries at Normandy and offered quite a bit of insight about what she saw and felt there. She offers thoughts about soldiers, war and the American and German memorials in Normandy, France.

No soldier deserves to die
It was seven o'clock on an uncharacteristically grey and cool morning in Normandy and the biting wind was causing an empty flagpole to rattle eerily in the World War II German cemetery at La Cambe.
For the rest of Niamh's piece, and more photos from Niamh's journey, click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/2u7kb9u