Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Pinch Of Green On St. Patrick's

By Monica Blaze
Junior Reporter
WIXOM, Michigan – You better have been wearing green on March 17 because it’s Saint Patrick’s Day!
Americans do not honor St. Patrick the same way the Irish do. In all honesty, there are some fanatical traditions here.
First off, as mentioned, you must wear green! It’s not some sort of law but there is a punishment. For those people who do not wear green on St. Patty’s Day, they can expect a pinch! When contemplated, this is a rather silly idea.
It was originally thought that if you wore green on this day you would ward off the leprechauns from pinching you, but if you didn’t wear green, then a pinch you could expect. Now it’s just sort of a juvenile American tradition to tease people who don’t show the proper St. Patrick’s Day spirit.
Though I have never been to Ireland, I have heard that the Irish believe Americans to be certifiably insane when it comes to March 17. This is not just about the pinching.
Sitting in my World History class, I recall my teacher explaining how the Irish value this day by actually honoring Saint Patrick. He told us how Saint Patrick was a patron saint from Ireland who helped bring Catholicism to the Irish people. It seems as though the Irish spend their day in Church. I cannot say the same for Americans.
To be brutally honest, another American tradition on St. Patrick’s Day is to get completely drunk.
Obviously, this is a tradition for people over 21, the legal drinking age. Some bars open before the sun comes up on St. Patrick’s Day. Driving to school at 6:45 a.m., there were limos driving around exclusively taking people to get drinks.
I cannot explain why this is a tradition, but it is. Of course, most people remain sober. It seems it is mostly young adults who abuse the Irish holiday.
It is not only people who are over 21 who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
There are other ways to celebrate that are more appropriate. Many children, especially of Irish descent, get very enthusiastic about this day. They believe that perhaps finding a four leaf clover is a sign of good luck.
Some parents, such as mine, would even go to the extent to pretend that leprechauns had visited their homes. I would wake up in the morning to find my house vandalized by the “leprechauns,” leaving clever little notes around and rearranging my furniture to impractical positions. What mischievous little guys!
While young adults celebrate in a rambunctious way and children celebrate through naive fun, teenagers don’t play a very prominent role in celebrating this holiday. The focus is really on adults and children.
Some teenagers wore green on St. Patrick’s, but many students did not as a stance against conformity.
Of course, in today’s liberal society, what was once tradition is now compliance. The tradition of the pinch is escaping away, too.
There seem to be fewer people wearing green than in years past, but the number of pinches is not increasing either. It seems as though the value of green and the luck of the four leaf clover is fading as childhood fades, too.
Perhaps, the teenagers of Ireland are the strongest believers of this day, as they are the ones who will carry on this tradition, if they so choose
Maybe the teenagers of America deserve a pinch to rejuvenate their spirits and put the faith of Saint Patrick back into their hearts!

YJI reception at Mark Twain House on Saturday, April 2

Youth Journalism International is hosting a free reception at the Mark Twain House and Museum on Saturday. We love the Twain House and are excited beyond compare that they're giving us a room to use for an afternoon in their fabulous museum.

We will have YJI students and alumni there, as well as parents, other friends, supporters and anyone who wants to know more about Youth Journalism International.

You may already know that the museum has a major new exhibition, American Storytellers: Norman Rockwell & Mark Twain, which, as described on the museum website, "unites the work of two masters with a wealth of artistic images and rare items brought together for the first time."

So it's a very cool setting, and there's no escaping the worldly Mark Twain's own work history as a newspaper reporter, making it a perfect connection for YJI.

Our task now? Fill up the space they're giving us. We need lots of people there. Please join us if you can, and pass along the information to anyone you think might be even remotely interested.
The reception is to kick off our major online fundraising initiative through Global Giving (more on that later), but there's no obligation to anyone to make a donation. This little party is free to the public and it's our way of introducing YJI to those who don't know us and helping those who know about it, know it better, while having a little fun, too.

We know this is last minute, but that's how great moments sometimes happen. Carpe Diem!

The date is Saturday, April 2, 2011
Time: 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Place: Mark Twain House and Museum, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford

We're grateful, too, for the help we've received from Big Y World Class Market, Trader Joe's and Hall's Market.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Look At ... Tests

Some things never change. YJI Senior Cartoonist Justin Skaradosky of Bristol, Connecticut, USA drew this in 2006.

Pak vs India Semifinal: More Than Cricket

By Waleed Tariq
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
KARACHI, Pakistan – Whoever believes cricket is just a game is likely to have their opinion changed when India and Pakistan meet today where the battle ground for the World Cup’s second semi-final is ready at Mohali. Matches between the two nations always bring about huge passion amongst the supporters of both sides.
This will be a highly emotional encounter for both the fans and the teams as well.
Even though cricket is the most popular sport amongst the two neighboring countries of the sub-continent, the rivalry is not only displayed in a cricket match.
As a matter of pride and since its inception, Pakistan has quickly learnt that a game against India can’t be lost.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to turn up to watch this cricket extravaganza along with his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gillani.
This match is likely to generate intense emotions.
Earlier in the week, fans were already getting in a frenzy.
I hope this match is be the best of the World Cup 2011 – with a high dose of pressure and entertainment.
Whatever the result maybe, this act of cricket diplomacy should act as a tool for greater peace and prosperity in the region.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cartoon From The Archives

This cartoon, by Noel Fahden, was published for Youth Journalism International more than a decade ago. But it still seems topical.

Indian, Pakistani Leaders Urge Youth To Unite And Work For Peace

Indian and Pakistani panelists at the Aman Ki Asha,
or Peace and Hope, seminar last week in Karachi
Photo by  Maaz Ahmed

By Waleed Tariq
Junior reporter
Youth Journalism International
KARACHI, Pakistan – Unless the youth of the India and Pakistan interact, there is little chances of peace or success in the region, a member of India’s parliament told students at a recent university seminar.
Mazhar Hussain joined several fellow members of India’s parliament and their Pakistani colleagues in speaking at an international seminar on the need of peace, stability and progress between India, Pakistan and the South Asian region.

In his view, Hussain said, there is no problem between Indian and Pakistani people. It is the governments of those nations, he said, that do not allow peaceful co-existence due to their various vested interests.

Indian Member of Parliament
Mazhar Hussain
Photo by Maaz Ahmed

“There is absolutely no difference between India and Pakistan and I have no feeling of being away from home,” said Hussain. “Everything is the same, the people, the way we talk, everything.”

At the seminar, ‘Progress Needs Peace and Stability,’ hosted by the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) on its Karachi campus, Hussain wasn’t the only one looking to young people to solve problems.

Shahid Siddiqui, another member of the Indian parliament and editor of the Hindi newspaper Nai Dunya, said that youth play a very important part in peace and conflict resolution.

“This generation has to deliver or else we will be in the dustbin of history,” Siddiqui said at the March 18 event, which was part of the Aman ki Asha campaign for peace building between both the countries. Aman means “peace” in Urdu; Asha is Hindi for “hope.”

Indian Member of Parliament Shadhid Siddiqui
Photo by Maaz Ahmed

“I am expecting a lot from Pakistani youth,” said Siddiqui. “We have to develop a constituency of peace.”

The lack of education makes the youth especially vulnerable to becoming involved in violence and hooliganism, Siddiqui said. He emphasized how important it is for the younger generation to develop the ability to question in order to distinguish between right and wrong.

Muqtida Mansoor, a Pakistani member of the panel, said friendly, peaceful and mutually beneficial relations between India and Pakistan are important for residents of both countries and for regional and global peace and security.

“We cannot achieve socio-economic development without peace and prosperity in this region,” Mansoor said. “We need to envision an environment that is conducive of dialogue in South Asia.”

To illustrate his point, Mansoor said the European Union and NAFTA have set aside their past differences and found new avenues for development.

Indian Member of Parliament
Bhalchandra Mungekar,
Photo by Maaz Ahmed

Dialog between India and Pakistan must begin again, Mansoor said, so the nations can move forward to resolve complicated disputes like Kashmir and Siachen that have been a bone of contention for many years.

Panelist Bhalchandra Mungekar, a member of the Indian parliament, said he is an economist by profession and a teacher by choice.

All differences between India and Pakistan could be resolved if people forget the bitter instances of the past and engage in continual, uninterrupted dialogue.

Mungekar also stressed the significance of youth in this peace initiative.

Audience at SZABIST seminar

“Visas shall be given to students for cross-border education exchange without any barriers,” Mungekar said. “I shall myself write to the prime minister of India about this, as soon as I reach there. The future depends on the youth and not on the politicians or the parliamentarians.”

Literature, Mungekar said, is the most powerful tool for a non-violent social change.

“I read the Holy Quran about 25 years ago and it is nothing but absolute peace,” Mungekar said.

Mansoor proposed that South Asian governments create a visa-free zone and allow duty-free access to books, magazines and other literary material.

Highlighting the power of technology, Hussain emphasized on the use of social media to meet, connect and to form a mutual platform for interaction.

Citizens should make foreign policy, Hussain said, rather an elitist group of civil-military bureaucrats. The people are the ones who are most affected by misguided policies that lead to problems of poverty, malnutrition and in other areas of development.

Initiated by major media outlets like the Urdu newspaper Jang in Pakistan and The Times of India, Aman ki Asha aims to encourage dialogue between the governments, encourage people-to-people contacts and thus contribute to bringing peace between India, Pakistan and South Asia at-large.

Facilitated by the Social Sciences Society of the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, the seminar was attended by an 11-member delegation from India. In addition to Mungekar, Hussain and Siddiqui, the panel included other veteran journalists and members of parliament such as Jatin Desai and Harris Kidwai, among others.

SZABIST Vice President of Academics
Amanat Ali Jalbani

From Pakistan, in addition to Mansoor, were Salman Shaikh, Tauqir Chughtai and Karamat Ali, who is the director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research.

Students and faculty members of the campus including Amanat Ali Jalbani, who is vice president of academics for the university.

Jalbani said the seminar is part of the institute’s policy of moving beyond the limited classroom customs and participating in various cross-cultural and corporate social responsibility activities to foster growth and development amongst its students.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Perspective: Season Of Lent Offers Catholics Opportunity For Renewal

By Monica Blaze
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
WIXOM, Michigan, U.S.A. – For Catholics, Lent is a 40-day period before Easter where fasting is participated.
Generally, each person gives up something sacred to them, or sets almost a resolution that, in turn, will bring them closer to God.
The Lenten season starts with Ash Wednesday, which is, obviously a Wednesday, and a major day of fasting. Catholics attend a Mass, or church service, where they get a small amount of ashes rubbed on their foreheads. This year, Ash Wednesday fell on March 9, but it is different each year.
Many Christians observe Lent, but not all in the same way.
Catholics wear ashes on Ash Wednesday, which are made by burning the blessed palms used Palm Sunday of the previous year, in the shape of a cross on their forehead.
The ashes, which look like a little black smudge on the face, symbolize that people are made from dust “and to dust they shall return,” as well as showing that we are all sinners, as Lent is a period of time that is supposed to help rid people of their sins.
Throughout Lent, Catholics over the age of 14 are also encouraged to abstain from eating meat on Fridays, and at our local church there is a fish fry to encourage this behavior.
And to honor the suffering that Jesus endured in the last weeks of his life, Catholics are also encouraged to give up something personally sacred during the period of Lent.
The whole idea is to imitate Jesus’ withdrawal. Some teenagers give up things like Facebook or eating junk food. For others, it’s not about what they give up, but what they decide to do. Many people make promises to themselves to pray more or try harder to fill their lives with love and give love.
All in all, Lent is just a spiritual revitalization that allows Catholics to renew their faith.
Some people of other religions don’t believe that Lent is an effective way to do this, as there are many controversies over what it is to be a “true Catholic.”
Participating in fasting over Lent but not getting anything out of it may not be effective, but many Catholics are revitalized and closer to the Lord after Lent.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

From Revolt To The Ballot Box In Egypt

Jessica Elsayed, who turned 18 last month, cast her first vote Saturday in Egypt's constitional referendum.

By Jessica Elsayed
Senior reporter
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt -- Before the revolution, the idea that a person’s vote would actually count for something was a scene from a dream.
It seemed unimaginable that people who weren’t bribed or threatened could cast meaningful ballots in a legitimate election.
But since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, a new sun of freedom has shone – and today, a sunny Saturday, marks the first-ever fair, transparent and free constitutional referendum in Egyptian history.
People who never thought they would ever engage in the actual choosing of their future headed to the polls in the first democratic activity of its kind that Egyptians have seen, turning Facebook profile pictures red for NO or green for YES.
Every city has hundreds of polls located in neighborhood schools, making them accessible to everyone.
The question facing voters is: Do you agree to the amendments made to the constitution?
That has been the question people from teenagers to prominent politicians have been discussing everywhere for the past week.
With many different opinions, the answers are split, with many people feel strongly about agreeing to the changes while others do not.
The one thing they have in common, however, is respect for the outcome.
The beauty of this referendum is that even though I voted no while some of my closest friends voted yes, there is no conflict.
There are some disappointing factors during the past week, however, because many imams in the mosques abused their power and influence to try to convince others to vote their way.
We have the right to state our opinions, but it is vital in circumstances like these that we give people the chance to judge for themselves.
Many charts and videos explained the pros and cons of each position and people generally made a point of saying they respected alternate views whenever they expressed their own.
A special committee offered nine amendments that limiting a president’s stay to two four-year terms, mandating that presidential nominees cannot carry a foreign nationality or be married to a foreigner, insisting the new president must drop the old constitution to start a new one, requiring judicial supervision of elections; deleting a constitutional section that put Egypt under martial law, and more.
One may ask why someone would not accept these changes.
The answer is in the timeline.
Saying yes would mean a shorter rule of the military, with parliamentary elections in six months and an agreement to keep the existing Constitution until the new president takes office.
Many who voted yes claimed they don’t want a state of chaos anymore and that saying no would only hinder the process of gaining stability.
On the other hand, those voting no, including me, believe that you cannot start a new democratic state on a patched Constitution.
It must be built on solid ground.
The time that would be granted by saying no would provide an opportunity for political parties to form and time for old parties to reorganize and start fresh so that all would be ready for elections.
My sense is that those voting yes are worried that if they voted no that the delay would mean a longer, somewhat unknown road ahead. Saying yes offers a fixed timeline.
The most vehement revolutionaries argue that a new constitution is a necessary part of their victory over the old regime. They do not believe the old one can be fixed or made legitimate with some revisions.
Almost all of the prominent opposition leaders oppose the amendments and are urging people to vote no.
While the former ruling party and the Muslim Brotherhood declared support for the referendum, it doesn’t mean only their supporters agree with them.
It is all a matter of what angle people see Egypt from and how they judge things.
Regardless of the result, people will respect the outcome because they trust the majority will decide.
Egyptians walk another proud day today, holding their pink phosphoric ink-stained fingers high.
Practicing freedom is totally worth waking up early on a Saturday morning.

Egyptians Head To The Polls

By Ghada Abdelhady
Junior reporter

"The referendum on the proposed amendments to the constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt will take place on March 19, 2011” announced the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt -- The March 19 referendum will not just allow Egyptians to vote Yes or No to the proposed constitutional amendments on eight articles. It will alsol open a vent to justice and begin a new era that will allow democracy to enter and flourish inside our Egypt.
All Egyptians, regardless their creed, religion, affiliation and beliefs, agreed on one thing: to VOTE, to make sure their voices could be finally heard after years and years of being set on mute.
Some of the January 25 youth coalition, which led the revolution, announced their disapproval of the constitutional amendments because they believe the current constitution – enacted in 1971 by our previous president, Anwar El-Sadat – is too corrupted to be fixed or reconstructed because it doesn’t limit presidential powers. They are seeking a new constitution.
But other Egyptians say they will vote in favor of the constitutional amendments Saturday based on the urgency of having the country settle down so it can focus more on the next steps needed. They are worried about the unpleasant effects aroused by the revolution, including thugs attacking neighborhoods, sectarian strife and the conflict that occurred when women were assaulted during a women’s international days march.
Sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for Saturday’s vote with inevitable impatience, it feels good watching history being made, putting aside my heavy heart aching from the grief that I won’t be able to take part in it.
Despite everything happening in Egyptians’ streets nowadays, we can see ecstasy in every face longing for change and fair elections.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Remembering Limerick's Frank McCourt

Two years ago, YJI senior reporter Marese Heffernan of Limerick, Ireland, wrote this tribute to the late Frank McCourt, a teacher and author of the memoir Angela's Ashes, which told the tale of his childhood in Limerick.
A Limerick street
Photo by Marese Heffernan
November 23, 2009
By Marese Heffernan
Senior reporter
LIMERICK, Ireland – At the age of 19, Frank McCourt left is hometown of Limerick and set sail to follow a life of dreams in America. It was there that he created his life, wrote his first masterpiece, Angela’s Ashes, reached the heights of fame and notability and most importantly, shared his incredible story with the world.
It was in New York City that Frank McCourt died last July, far from the town of so many of his childhood memories.
McCourt may have left Limerick long ago, but he took the time to make it known to the world that Limerick never left him.    To read the rest, click on this link.

The River Shannon in Limerick
Photo by Marese Heffernan

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Egyptian Youth Need To Be Ready To Lead

By Ghada Abdelhady
Junior reporter
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – We have the right to choose who rules us.
The youth of the January 25 revolution who declared Egypt a free country swear to keep it safe and to defend it to our last breath.
We will protect our land against the greed of authorities and never let anyone disgrace the country again.
Egypt has gone through a very rough period, but the next stage, requiring the creation of a new system, will likely prove much more difficult and critical than anything yet seen.
From a scientific vantage point, we are in a trial and error experiment.
God blessed us with people who were ready to do whatever it takes to fight the so-called villains, replacing them after 30 years of injustice and tyranny.
Youth should be concentrating now on building and developing Egypt by cleaning it, supporting its stock market, making donations and educating ourselves to be able to lead the country to its true position in the world.
The Friday protests should stop so can let the next stage flourish.
We have done our role. Now let’s wait and observe the reaction to our incredible, honorable action.
Freedom belongs to the people.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

King's Speech 'A Remarkable Work Of Art'

By Myah Guild
Junior reporter

DUNSTABLE, Bedfordshire, England -- To call The King's Speech a masterpiece would be nothing short of the truth.
Directed by Tom Hooper (who made The Damned United and Red Dust), the film chronicles King George VI's battle to overcome his stammer – a speech impediment that had a profound
effect on both his professional and personal life.
The film cha
rts the treatment of Albert, Duk
e of York (informally known as Bertie), at the hands of Lionel Logue, an unconventional speech therapist.
Colin Firth
's perform
ance as stuttering Bertie is convincing and utterly compelling.
Firth’s ability to capture not only the physical symptoms of stammering, but also the mental and emotional causes of it are a great achievement. Complimented by Geoffrey Rush's portrayal of the hilariously unorthodox Logue, a failed actor turned speech therapist; the film is a must-see tale of sorrow and triumph.
A sterling supporting performance from Helena Bonham Carter adds to the film's resonance and emotional appeal. Carter's successful portrayal of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon's sense of helplessness and courage makes the film all the more humbling and emotional.
Other supporting cast members including Michael Gambon, as King George V, and Timothy Spall, as Winston Churchill, enforce the British tone of the film, with Eve Best's portrayal of Wallis Simpson contrasting with the conventional, ordered ways of the royals.
Guy Pearce's portrayal of the inept heir-turned-monarch King Edward VIII is frustratingly accurate. The pairing of Best and Pearce works well as both capture the sense of hedonism that was sweeping the upper classes in 1930s.
That said, the drama does contain flashes of comic genius.
The humor is refreshingly natural, providing light relief from the sombre tone that dominates most of the film.
The contentious relationship between Bertie and Logue is both humorous and tense, as the characters are designed to clash and compliment one another at the same time.
Overall, The King's Speech is a story that needs little ‘added drama’ or sensationalism.
The issues regarding historical inaccuracy are trivial when compared to the excellence of this film.
Everything about The King's Speech oozes magnificence and class rendering it a remarkable work of art.

At Joe Bun Keos' Art Show

From left to right: Steve Collins, Joe Keo and Jackie Majerus at CaRo Art Studio and Gallery in Meriden, Connecticut for the opening of Keo's art show, "modest gesture and the grand scale: selected works by joe bun keo."

The artist in front of his Kawshun tape piece.

Keo's show runs through March 20.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

YJI Alum Joe Bun Keo's Latest Art Show Opens Tonight

Youth Journalism International is excited that one of our great alums, Joe Bun Keo, has a new art show opening tonight in Meriden, Connecticut. We plans to be there and hope any YJI folks in the area who can make it will also check it out. Here are the details:

Joe Bun Keo, a YJI Connecticut alum who delighted our readers for many years with his prolific writing and art, created the hilarious and provocative cartoon series called "The Daily Sketch." (You can see those at this link.) He's maintained strong ties to YJI since then and is a fiercely loyal supporter.

Lately, Joe has been making a name for himself as a professional artist. A graduate of The University of Hartford art school, Joe is a vigorous advocate for the arts in his hometown of Bristol, Conn. and beyond.

His upcoming show, Modest Gesture and the Grand Scale: Selected Works by Joe Bun Keo, opens Saturday, March 12 at the CaRo Art Gallery and Studio, 290 Pratt St., Meriden, Connecticut.

There's a free opening reception from 6-10 p.m., but making art isn't free, so I hope most who attend will at least kick in the modest $5 suggested donation to support this young artist and his work.
Joe's show runs through March 20.

Artist Statement:

It's like coming midway into a conversation; finding yourself in that awkward silence with a soundtrack of crickets chirping, and blank faces asking "um...okay...what now?"

You're stuck trying to find a resolution; whether it's by attempting to catch up to speed with everyone else or interjecting with a hasty subject change or an offbeat icebreaker. Things may go awry, fail miserably or they can just move on without consequence.

I flip my misunderstandings and shortcomings in language to turn them into experiments with wordplay.There will be clichés, punch lines, pop culture references and contemporary youth vernacular involved.

I also enjoy the reexamination of what people take for granted.The most mundane of utilitarian objects or overlooked situations can be taken out of the comfort of their given context and shown in a new light.

The end result could be clean, quick, clever, dry, sarcastic, but nevertheless accessible and relevant . The dialogue between the work and audience may seem short, but remnants resonate.
I believe in modest gestures, minor miracles, small victories and second chances... as should you.

-Joe Bun Keo, 2010

Joe's website is and the gallery's website is
For more information, call the gallery at (203) 886-6809. Find Joe on Twitter:
and Facebook:

Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway.
See for details.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami In Japan

For the first time in awhile, something big is happening in the world in a place where Youth Journalism International doesn't have any student writers.
But perhaps we can find a teen can write in English and who wants to tell the world about the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan today.
If anyone knows somebody who might be interested, pass on word about YJI! We are eager for news, pictures or first-person essays from young people who have something to say about the tragedy -- especially if they live there.
Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway. See for details.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Contest Entries Due Today So Don't Delay

Today is the last day to enter Youth Journalism International's annual contest for young reporters, columnists, photographers and cartoonists. Entries are due by 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Since it's easy to enter online, there's still plenty of time to get entries in before the deadline.
Check out all the contest details at
Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway. See for details.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mixed Feelings On Opening Schools In Egypt

Students at the Egyptian American International School in New Cairo, Helwan District, from left to right, Sarah Sabra, Zeina Abou-Zeid, Farida Khafaga, Dina Sherif and Lama Tawakkol. (Photo provided.)

By Lama Tawakkol
CAIRO, Egypt – With so many escaped prisoners and thugs on the loose, some wonder if it’s safe for schools to reopen yet in post-Revolution Egypt.
Though the Egyptian American International School in New Cairo, Helwan District is already back to work, following its normal curriculum, teachers and parents are ambivalent about the move.
Raghda Kasim, an English Literature teacher for grade 12, said schools had to start again to “strike when the iron is hot” and let students enforce the values of the revolution and understand what it means to be an Egyptian citizen following the January 25 revolution.
But Rehab El Shehabi, who is both a mother and a teacher, said she is still very anxious about the well-being of the children despite the remarkable opportunity to instill recent events into the daily lives of students.
She said she needed to know the ministry of interior was working harder to provide safety measures for returning students.
Shehabi also said it is unfair to have some people at school and others not at school because it could end up giving an unequal advantage to some people in the final exams.
Sherene Rahman said that the revolution was not the romantic vision of waving flags.
It was the beginning of real, sudden change that had to be dealt with, she said.
Before building castles in the sky, she said, you have to put down a foundation. Education is that foundation, she said.
Ahmed El Attar, a grade 12 physics teacher, said it would be better for everyone to be at home until the country was functioning safely and properly.
He added that this didn’t mean repeatedly postponing the second semester, but rather wrapping up the year.
Attar said the nation is facing an emergency and it needs to be dealt with as one.
The head of the English Department at the school, Howayda El Enany, said she is worried about her kids but that it would be nonsense to wait for the security people claim they want.
If events don’t stabilize soon, she said, schools could very well be off for months.
She added that most students were out having fun anyway, so why not come to school instead.
English teacher Dean Cecil Bahr said safety is crucial and might not be very steady at the moment.
But delaying education could be even more “ruinous” than that, he said.
Bahr said that education had to get underway because “when an old tree falls in the forest, the responsibility lies with the new trees to provide structure, progress, and a stable future.”
Grade Disciplinary Supervisor for grades seven through 10, Dalia Khalil, said she hoped the changes in Egypt would positively affect the students, adding that the events would inevitably have a great impact on both their internal and external attitudes.
As the nation’s events progress, however, it is unclear what will come next.
“Revolution is deep and rapid change; education is gradual and slow, and both are parallel,” said Hind Fatfat, a sociology teacher.
The question that is repeated over and over across Egypt at the moment, though, is whether or not education and revolution will be able to continue in parallel.
In recent days, there have been reports about thugs stopping schools buses and demanding money, while others have attempted to break into schools.
So far, though, the problems have been minor and the army has intervened to help.
Even so, many parents are growing more nervous and some are considering not sending their kids to school.
Some schools that planned to open today have put it off for another week.
Whatever schools choose to do, questions and doubts will remain.
But everyone in Egypt is wishing for safety to return to the streets.

Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway. See for details.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Schools Reopen In Cairo

Students in the auditorium of the Egyptian American International School in New Cairo, Helwan District. (Lama Tawakkol/

By Lama Tawakkol
CAIRO, Egypt – Since the revolution started on January 25, Egyptian life has virtually been put on hold.
Schools were shut down, the stock market frozen and tourism almost suspended until people felt it was safe again.
However, life is slowly starting to get back to normal.
Tourists are trickling back in, the stock market will resume work on Tuesday and schools in the Cairo and Helwan districts reopened last Sunday.
As the schools opened their doors for the first time since the revolution, everyone was aware that things would never be the same.
The Egyptian American International School in New Cairo, Helwan District decided to start off the new semester and the new era with an assembly about the events.
The whole school sat in the auditorium while the school’s superintendent, Mervat Bassiouni, went on stage and gave a word about the previous events in the country.
She stressed that students were the future of the
country and its hope and they should start by changing themselves in order to change the world.
Then, the school director, Rasha Ghappour, took the microphone and proceeded to stress that the change didn’t have to be so big, but that each person had to start gradually with his or herself, emphasizing huge role that lay on the shoulders of the new generation.
After a moment of silence for the lost souls of the revolution, students had the chance to share anything they had prepared.Some of the students gave speeches while others recited poems.
Haya El Hady, a high school junior, chose to read a letter from Egypt to the Egyptians as she had imagined it, while Dana El Nakib, a sophomore, read a poem about what had happened.
Other students preferred to address the future.
Mostafa Wael and Sarah Sabra, both sophomores, spoke about the upcoming period.
Wael expressed the importance of education and how vital
it is to focus our attention to it, arguing that if education improves, everything else will. Sabra, on the other hand, talked about the political aspect, conveying the need for true democracy and voicing hope in the future that is bound to be different.
Some students and teachers didn’t share thoughts but rather talked about some of the services people were starting to offer.
Jala Ayman, a high school senior who lost her friend in the protests, invited everyone to give to a fund established for the martyrs’ families.
Mona Abdel Alim, a religion teacher, told the students of a new idea some people had of helping out at public schools whether financially or through tutoring and private lessons to the students.
After the assembly, students headed to their classes where the rest of the day was dedicated to discussing the events and coming up with productive suggestions for the future.
The teachers did not dwell much on the past but focused more on encouraging the students to take part in the community from then onward.
The day closed with the students praying in the courtyard for the 300 souls who died to gain Egypt its freedom.

Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway. See for details.

Egyptian Youth Rally Behind New Prime Minister

From left to right: Dina Nashaat, Yousr M. Al-Shaarawy, Prime Minister Essem Sharaf, Yomna El Haddad and Sara M. Al-Shaarawy (Photo provided).

By Jessica Elsayed
Senior Reporter
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt -- What a beautiful day it is when you wake up to see your day-old prime minister being held on the shoulders of youth after giving a speech in Tahrir Square.
This latest twist started Wednesday when former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik appeared on television with several other prominent figures in Egyptian society, including businessman Naguib Sawiris, respected journalist Hamdy Kandil, and author and activist Alaa Alaswany.
Egyptians everywhere tuned in to see this heated conversation, especially with Alaswany, but never thought that it would lead to Shafik’s re
signation next day.
Shafik’s answers to some of the questions the guests asked proved to many that although he seems to be a kind man, he is not fit for the position of prime minster now.
The youth of the January 25th movement found it extremely difficult to trust his government, particularly since there are still thugs on the loose. The lack of police makes it dangerous enough that officials had to postpone schools and universities again.
By Friday’s demonstrations – yes, they are still going on –
plans to call for the removal of Shafik and his government had been blown away by events.
Instead of more protest, it turned into a celebration of another revolution victory as protesters greeted the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, a man who participated in the revolution, leading students marching from Cairo University.
Sharaf is trusted and loved among youth for his humbleness, integrity and sincere will to advance the Arab world.
Back in 2004, Sharaf was appointed minister of transport but resigned two years later after seeing corruption in the ministry.He is a man of science, one who believes in nurturing young minds and the intellect of Egypt’s youth.
Along with Ahmed Zewail and Farouk El Baz, Sharaf founded the Science Era Association that includes the brilliant young minds of Egypt, giving them wide windows of opportunities found nowhere else and encouraging them to make discoveries every day.Ahmed Samir, one of the nation’s brilliant scie
ntific minds, said the new prime minister addressed him as “Sir.”
In the world of prominent Egyptians, this humility is rare and another indication of Sharaf’s greatness.
Because he understands youth and interacts with them, there is much hope put in Sharaf’s hands.
People are trusting that he will bring to Egypt the educational system it deserves and remove the remaining three ministers from the old regime.
Knowing he is in charge, I slept well at last.
The revolution has reached another milestone, but it is yet just the beginning.

From Left to Right: Omar Ghorab, Mohamed Ayman Zerban, Prime Minister Essem Sharaf, Abdullah Saied, Mohamed El Haddad and Ahmed Samir
(Photo provided

Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway. See for details.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Former YJI Student Has Book Published

A former Youth Journalism International student, Samantha Perez, has written her first book, The Isleños of Louisiana: On the Water's Edge. Published by Octavia Books in New Orleans, a release party for the new book is slated for March 16.

Perez began writing for YJI the day that Hurricane Katrina slammed into her home state, destroying her family home in St. Bernard Parish and leaving her living in a FEMA trailer during her senior year of high school. She wrote about her experiences in a series of incredible journal entries that captured the heartbreak of the odyssey she shared with hundreds of thousands of other young people. Her own strength and courage shined through the pages as she chronicled her post-Katrina life.

Perez's widely read work captured a number of honors, including the Professor Mel Williams Award for Writing Excellence through the Scholastic Press Forum, the Suburban Newspapers of America’s Award for Best Feature and a special resolution from the Louisiana State Senate.

Perez, whose family rebuilt in St. Bernard Parish, graduated last year from Southeastern Louisiana University with degrees in history and honors English, is now a graduate student at Tulane University, where she is aiming to earn a Ph.D. in late medieval and early modern European history.

We are so proud of all that Perez has accomplished.

Order your own copy through Octava's website by clicking here.

Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway. See for details.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The World's Biggest Party In Trinidad

In an April 2007 journal, Youth Journalism International writer Kate Agard reported from Port-of-Spain, Trinidad about studying through the annual Carnival, the world's biggest party.
With Carnival slated for March 7 and 8 this year -- next Monday and Tuesday -- it seems an opportune time to take another look at Agard's piece.
By the way, Kate is now a student at Harvard University, so apparently all that studying paid off.

Photo by Matthew Tompsett

During the world's biggest party,
I hit the books
By Kate Agard
Youth Journalism International
Port-of-Spain, TRINIDAD – Lent is almost over, and for a semi-practicing Roman Catholic, that should mean something. It should symbolize growth or change; sacrifice and resolution.
But for me, it means a week of abstaining from meat and not much else.
Lent used to be a big deal, but now, at least in Trinidad, it’s just the period of time that follows Carnival.
Carnival seems to be our raison-d’etre – the rest of the year is just a reason to prepare for it.
And this year, I missed it all completely. Talk about sacrifice.Officially, for a few days in February that make up Carnival, we are forgiven from any normally acceptable standard of behavior.
It’s a time like no other. Click here to read the entire story.
Doing the Wheelbarrow

Photo by Matthew Tompsett
Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway. See for details.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Political Cartoon Backs A Free Libya

Youth Journalism International Reporter Mehran Shamit in Toronto drew this cartoon:

Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway. See for details.

Armenian Flashmob Welcomes Spring

Tatev Davitavyan and Narine Daneghyan,
Photo provided

By Narine Daneghyan
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
YEREVAN, Armenia – Fed up with the cold, a group of students took matters into their own hands and held a celebration flashmob to welcome spring.

On the last day of February, a group of students gathered in Cascade Park in Yerevan to hurry spring along. They were ready and willing to say bye-bye to winter.

Gathering for the flashmob
Photo by Narine Daneghyan

“In the last few days, the weather is not good enough. We want spring to come quickly, so decided to organize this event,” said Miqayel Voskanyan, one of the organizers of the <<BYEBYE WINTER, HELLO SPRING>> flashmob.

Photo by Narine Daneghyan

During the flashmob, young people, many of them my fellow students, walked along the central streets of Yerevan.

We held colorful balloons in our hands and sang songs about spring.

That was really wonderful. Even the cold didn’t keep us from having a good time.

Flashmob walks through central Yerevan
Photo by Narine Daneghyan

Flashmob says bye-bye winter, hello, spring!
Photo by Narine Daneghyan

Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway.
See for details.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Reader's Quiz: What's Happening Here?

Let's have some fun.
A YJI student (who shall remain nameless for now) sent in this photo and some others (from a place that shall remain a mystery for now). The student also sent a bit of writing about what's happening here. I'm waiting to hear back on a few details, so until then, I'm posting this photo with a challenge to see if readers can guess where it was taken and what's going on.
Please check back later to see the rest of the pictures and a full explanation, but meanwhile, post your guesses as comments below.

Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway.

Cairo's Christians And Muslims Unite

Cairo's Muslims and Christians gathered at the
Evangelical Church of Nasr City Friday for a brunch
Photo by Lama Tawakkol

By Lama Tawakkol
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International

Photo by Lama Tawakkol
CAIRO, Egypt – As Muslims and Christians came together to enjoy a simple church brunch in Cairo recently, they strengthened the new bonds that they formed during the revolution.
The uprising and revolution, which began January 25 and ended with the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, brought Egyptians political, social and cultural advantages.
Some are immediate, while others may take longer to realize.
The uprising didn’t merely topple a dictator or change the cabinet – it changed an entire people and added a whole new dimension to society.
It revealed a civilized Egyptian people who had been oppressed and pushed down for so long that they saw nothing good in life and couldn’t react with optimism, hope, or constructiveness.
But as Mubarak’s regime began to crumble, the people started getting closer, regardless of religion, social class or wealth, united under common goals and demands.
They put aside their differences and as they took on the new responsibilities that came with change, they embraced a new spirit of fraternity, cooperation and productivity.
This spirit was especially conspicuous in Tahrir Square as Egyptian Christians and Muslims held hands during the protests and declared they were “one.” They invalidated all the government’s prior claims of sectarian tension in Egypt between people of both faiths.

Photo by Lama Tawakkol
As matters in Egypt cooled down, the people’s new attitude did not waver but persistently stood its ground.
This was apparent at many events, but the most touching to me was at a neighborhood brunch last Friday at the nearby Evangelical Church of Nasr City.
We found a paper taped to every door on the street, inviting the residents to a gathering and brunch after Friday prayers. It was a token of appreciation to the block’s youth who had stayed up for nights at a time protecting us and enabling us to sleep soundly, and also as a means of preserving the newly found friendships and relationships between the people.
The last line of the invite was a note saying the gathering’s guest would be a sheikh from Al Azhar, the heart for Sunni Islam across the globe.
If the invitation was touching, the event itself was amazing. It moved everyone in attendance and drove many to tears.
Young ladies stood at the gate to the church playground, giving out Egyptian flags and welcoming everyone. In the playground, where many tables were set for the meal, other church members came forward to welcome the newly arrived guests.
They took each person to a seat and quickly handed him or her a plate of food.
The crowd of women, veiled Muslims alongside their Christian friends, ate a meal in sweet harmony, their newly formed bond becoming stronger by the minute.
Two sheikhs attended, not just one, and they both stood at the podium and spoke of the importance of living alongside one another and recognizing that our religious differences are not something that should cause a chasm between us.
The priest at the church also spoke along the same lines, reminding everyone that we were one and should stand together.
After the speeches, there were several other acts lined up. A young girl named Judy took the stage and sang a lovely song about the revolution that she had written herself.

Photo by Lama Tawakkol
Then, one of the church’s members, a flight attendant for EgyptAir, recounted a story about one of the flights that had been sent to Tripoli for the Egyptians there.
He said the Egyptians on the plane erupted into applause as the doors closed after them and they were legally on Egyptian property.
He also told the story of how the moment the plane touched ground at Cairo International Airport, all the passengers simultaneously started clapping, crying and yelling, “Long live Egypt.”
He related this story as an introduction to a poem he’d written about the different attitudes of pre- and post- January 25th.
The poem was deeply moving as it accurately described the people’s negative approaches until only a day before the start of the protests, and the sudden shift into a state of patriotism as they realized on the 25th that they were capable of inflicting change.
As his recital progressed, people all around me, including my mother, turned puffy-eyed.
The image was one of a love for a country so deep that no words can explain it.
He finished the poem with the Egyptian national anthem and just as the music started to play, the entire assembly rose to its feet, sang along and waved their flags.
It was a sight to be seen.
After the entertainment that had been planned by the church, the priest announced that we would be having an open discussion where anyone should feel free to come up to the stage and share any ideas that he or she might have on how best to proceed and move forward in the upcoming period.
Many people went up and the suggestions were highly inspired and creative. They would be highly productive if implemented.
The proposed activities included a common Facebook group for the street residents to maintain contact between all, a fundraiser for the wounded and finding jobs for the poor people to provide them with a steady income and not just charity.
There were also several other ideas concerning keeping the street clean and offering tutoring services to the less fortunate, including the doormen’s children and others who could only afford public education, which is inadequate at the moment.
Even though all the volunteers on stage were sincere, one woman especially caught my attention because her words rang so true that I wanted to scream, “Amen.”
She was the one who proposed the tutoring and declared they had been doing it at the church for years now but that now, we could ALL share.
Stressing the “all” part, she said that before the revolution there had been many forces trying to come between Muslims and Christians but that we now knew better and there was no one who would try to break up this new union.
Her words were met with large applause as people cheered for their newly realized strength and power, not physically, but in their numbers and their alliances.
The event was special, and I hope it is just the first of its kind and not the only one.
The life I saw during that brunch and the selfless cooperation and respect the people showed one another elevated my optimism that Egypt is heading for a much better place.
When I looked at the table where the sheikhs were sitting with the priest, I wanted to scream out at all those who had been lying to us about Christian-Muslim tension in the past.
Several journalists and representatives from two prominent talk shows also attended and reported on the brunch, showing its significance.
Unity is not new, as my mother pointed out. This is the temperament we’ve all been brought up to have, but we’ve just realized that we should be smarter than those trying to get in between us.

 Brunch organizers, from left: Sarah Adel, Diana Reda,
Dina Mourad, and Nayer Nagy
Photo by Lama Tawakkol

Youth Journalism International's annual journalism contest is underway.
See for details.