Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Death In The YJI Family

Youth Journalism International today lost one of its biggest cheerleaders.
Patricia Majerus, 81, died early this morning at the Cedar Valley Hospice Home in Waterloo, Iowa of the lingering effects of a massive stroke she suffered in September 2010.
Pat, mother of YJI executive director Jackie Majerus, provided steady support for the organization since its formation, rooting for its success and taking a genuine interest in the work of its students across the globe.
In the past 15 years, four of her dozen grandchildren have participated in YJI.
Born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 1930, Majerus lived in the Midwest most of her life, where she married and raised five children. Her husband of 52 years, Tom, died in 2001.
In the years since, she devoted herself to volunteer work in her Cedar Falls, Iowa community and to her growing family that stretches from coast to coast.
A forward-thinking, open-minded woman, she took a special interest in Youth Journalism International.
We feel lucky to have had Pat's love and support as YJI grew from an idea into a legitimate organization with a worldwide reach. We will miss her mightily.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Young Voters Shrug Off Michigan Primary

Photo: Romney campaign
Mitt Romney, campaigning in Michigan

By Monica Blaze
WIXOM, Michigan -- With vicious advertisements already in place, and a current tight race, it will be a bitter fight for Republicans Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in today’s Michigan primary.
Romney is fighting to avoid an embarrassing home state loss, but Santorum’s efforts against him may be surprisingly stronger.  
With such an interesting race that includes one of Michigan’s own, it’s a shame that more young voters here aren’t following the election.
After sampling a few peers, it was obvious that the excitement of voting for the first time hasn’t reached our younger generation yet. Asked about the Michigan primary, the most common response among young people was simply, “I don’t follow politics.”
In a follow up question, most youth said they were content with President Barack Obama’s role in office.
Perhaps the hype of an election will hit young voters in time for November’s presidential election, though if their response to the primary is any indication, it doesn’t look promising.
Romney has home state advantages over Santorum for the Michigan primary, but votes may be skewed if there is a lack of voters.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pakistan Wins First Oscar With "Saving Face"

By Waleed Tariq
Senior Reporter
KARACHI, Pakistan - Pakistani journalist, filmmaker and first-time Oscar nominee Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy won an Academy Award on Monday for her documentary about acid attack victims.
The award, under the category Best Documentary Short, was the first time in the 84-year history of the Oscars that a Pakistani documentary was nominated and won.
Saving Face chronicles British plastic surgeon Dr. Mohammad Jawad, who returns to his homeland of Pakistan and performs reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid attacks there.
The HBO documentary is the story of one woman as she fights to see that the perpetrators are imprisoned for life for the crime. Victims are often women who refuse a marriage proposal or are unable to meet the demands of a dowry.
Chinoy’s victory shines a light on a subject that affects thousands of women in Pakistan and elsewhere, yet is seldom discussed.
In her acceptance speech, Chinoy dedicated the award to “all the heroes working on the ground in Pakistan” including the surgeon, Jawad, the subjects of the documentary and the women of Pakistan.
The women’s “bravery and resilience in the face of adversity inspires me every single day,” she said. “They are the true heroes of Pakistan.”
Co-director Daniel Junge said he had the idea for Saving Face after hearing about Jawad, and asked Chinoy to work with him. He has been previously nominated for both an Oscar and an Emmy.
Saving Face competed against God Is the Bigger Elvis, a Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson film about a mid-century starlet who chose the church over Hollywood and The Barber of Birmingham, a Gail Dolgin and Robin Fryday film that follows the life of 85-year-old barber James Armstrong and the legacy of the civil rights movement, among others.
Chinoy’s films have previously won international acclaim. Her 2010 documentary, Pakistan’s Taliban Generation, won an International Emmy Award.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

YJI Reviewers Re Potential Oscar Winners

Catch up on our reviews of some of this year's Oscar contenders:

Best Picture:
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Best Actress:
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Weeks With Marilyn

Best Actor:
Demián BichirA Better Life
George ClooneyThe Descendants
Jean DujardinThe Artist
Gary OldmanTinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad PittMoneyball

Laughing And Crying With 'The Descendants'

George Clooney in The Descendants

By Vipasha Shaikh
TORONTO, Canada – It  is in the strange moments of life when one is put into completely new, befuddling, complicated situations that people experience a sudden spurt of growth and realization about themselves, their life, and the way in which they fit with everyone around them.
The Descendants, directed by Alexander Payne, is a film that depicts this process in its entirety, as one comes to see how the most tragic of circumstances for a man can also double as the most miraculous of transformations in a cocktail of horror, humor and sorrow.
In a way, this film represents how life, in and of itself, is a double-edged sword, because it exists in shades of grey confusion instead of in black-and-white clarity.

Nowhere is this message of murkiness more prominent than within the complexity of the marriage of Matt King (the titular character, played by George Clooney) to his wife.
We learn of their relationship dynamic early on in the film, when King says, “I’m the understudy - the back-up parent, and now, with Elizabeth in the hospital, my daughters are testing me.”
King is the parent who takes redemption in his work, while his wife, in his ominous neglect, also seeks salvation, but in extreme sports, excessive parenting, and recklessness.
King and his wife have the typical destructive marriage - one in which the husband and wife grow apart over time, sweeping more and more problems under the rug, and letting lost desires and reconciliations simmer in a froth of icy turbulence.
In Matt and Elizabeth’s case, their marriage ends with a sad realization. One of Elizabeth’s extreme sports ventures leave her comatose and Matt in a state of flux as he directly deals with his foul-mouthed, sent-straight-from-hell daughters along with a deal that could compromise the land of Hawaii.
Matt is underwater, literally, for the first time in his life, as he has to face up to the challenges of everyday reality and deal with the underlying menaces that everything in his life now comes to harbor.
His land deal represents a heritage lost and gone. His daughters bring new problems to the table, every single day. And his wife’s condition comes with its own hidden angst, as Matt comes to find out about her own hidden turmoil and indiscretions.
Each situation is new for Matt. Each situation requires he step up and make a pivotal decision. And each situation is difficult. There is no black and white way with which Matt can deal with his daughters, his cousins and his wife.
It is within that greyness that you find the heart of The Descendants.
There is a scene when Matt is at a hotel with Scottie (Amara Miller) and Alex (Shailene Woodley), his two daughters, along with Alex’s pot-smoking tagalong friend, Sid.
Scottie, who is 10, had wanted to watch a porno movie earlier in the night, and she mentioned that her best friend who watched them all the time called them “masturbation movies.”
With this disturbing piece of news, Alex lashes out at Scottie, and tells Scottie that her best friend is a “twat.” The two argue back and forth, getting more vulgar and crude with each passing phrase.
The strange hilarity and profanity of the situation prompts Matt to lash out against both of them.  He is angry, because he’s realized just how profoundly rebellious his daughters have become, seemingly holding all authority in contempt. He can’t control their outbursts (Scottie calls her own sister “a motherless whore” at one point while Alex has a strange liking for the word “twat”), even though he knows he has to because it’s his job as the good, decent parent.
So Matt, completely helpless with his daughters, wakes up in the middle of night to find Sid (Nick Krause), Alex’s friend in the hotel TV room, still awake in stoned reverie.
In full-out parent distress, Matt says to him: “Sid, what you would do if you were me, and you had to deal with my daughters?”
Sid replies, funnily enough, “I don’t know, trade them in for sons, I guess.”
To which Matt answers, “Yeah, but no offense, if I had sons, they’d be probably be just like you, miles away from Smartville.”
This prompts Sid to become super insulted: “Hey, old man, I am totally smart. I’m the president of my school chess team, I get decent enough grades, and no matter what, I always, always have a ton of weed.”
And in this way, the conversation between Matt and Sid lingers, and other layers start to come out between them. Sid reveals a terrible family tragedy that happened to him a few months ago, and a family history of addiction. More important, he reveals a stoic and tenacious sense of self, which prompts Matt to believe in better things for his own daughters.
The strange thing about that heart-to-heart is the unexpectedness with which it occurs.
Matt, in a moment of frustration, vents to the only bystander he can, Sid, even though he hates Sid and holds him in contempt for being so ... laid back.
But in that instance when Matt gets over his judgment and reaches out to Sid, he finds a person to whom he can relate, a person who’s suffered as much as he has, maybe even more.
These surprising revelations characterize The Descendants easily, because Matt is in strange situations all the time. He is dealing with the dumbly materialistic (his cousins trying to pilfer him for easy money), with the tragic (his wife’s coma), and with the tragicomic (his daughters’ plight).
And within all that, Matt is finding himself, surely, one way or another.
The Descendants is truly about one man’s odyssey through life - and through it all, we are rooting for this hero, this everyman figure who is starting to finally live and understand the life around him.
With his greying hair, his girlish gait, and his stoic way of facing life, we have a moving character for the times – a man who is just trying to get by, day by day.
I cried during this film. It was near the end, when the hidden turbulence of all the scenes came to a climax with the closing sequence when Matt realizes that he did, truly, love his wife, despite their growing isolation, despite her indiscretions, and most importantly despite all the pain.
Matt says to Elizabeth, in staccato whisper-tears at the hospital: “Good-bye Elizabeth, my love … my pain … my friend … my joy. Good-bye!”
With that realization, Matt takes charge and moves beyond the heartache and dissonance.
He will continue have trouble with his daughters, his cousins will continue hate him, and his job will still be demanding, but the renewed confidence with which Matt grows out of his late adulthood lethargy is enough of a cause for cheer and triumph. He has come to find himself, he has come to understand how to be a father, and he’s come to understand how he wants to live.
You can never really be too old for a coming-of-age story.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

'Safe House' A Solid Thriller In South Africa

By Mariechen Puchert
Senior writer

CAPE TOWN, Western Cape, South Africa -- Matt Weston, keeper of an uneventful CIA safe house in Cape Town gets all the action he dreamed of and more when one of the CIA’s most-wanted is captured in South Africa.
What he was not counting on, though, was information regarding his employer that he is ill-equipped to handle.
Starring Denzel Washington, this thriller and action film leaves audience members on the edge of their seats.
The South African setting contributes much to the film’s acclaim, offering a political instability, a language barrier and unfamiliar settings for characters to traverse.
In terms of cinematography, the directing crew utilizes a variety of angles and filming methods, providing an on-the-ground action-milieu.
The downfall of Safe House is the rather overdone conspiracy theme, insisting that the CIA is not all it is made out to be. The plot is slightly redeemed by leaving small details to the very end, many which are unpredictable.
Sensitive viewers are to be warned as this film is filled to the brim with explicit scenes of violence.
Despite the permeating conspiracy, Safe House offers good cinematographic entertainment. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Youth Address Concerns Over Bullying

By Mary Majerus-Collins
Senior Reporter
Ameni Mathlouthi
HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Bullying is a serious problem for young people that must be addressed, according to members of Congressional Youth Cabinets in Connecticut and Missouri.
Connecticut high school and college students who make up Congressman John Larson’s youth cabinet and Missouri teens who comprise Congressman William Lacy Clay’s cabinet discussed bullying and how to prevent it in a videoconference Saturday.
“If children don’t feel safe at their own school, how are they supposed to succeed?” said cabinet member Matthew Wilson, a junior at Wethersfield High School in Wethersfield, Conn. “One of the reasons why people bully people is because they don’t understand the other person.”
Among the various programs discussed was the Youth Establishing Strength, a campaign against bullying.
Also the cabinets viewed a short video about Challenge Day, a seven-hour program designed to demonstrate to both students and teachers how much people have in common with one another and how easy it can be to make friends.
In Challenge Day the participants shared their experiences and problems with each other. By the end, students said, they knew and cared about every person there, while before they had only cared about their friends.
Patrick Nickoletti, an associate professor of human development and family studies at St. Joseph College in West Hartford, Conn., addressed the cabinets.
Nickoletti said  state policy punishes schools that report bullying and that a state certificate should be given to schools that include anti-bullying programs in their curriculum.
The United States is a “country based on equalities,” Nickoletti said,  but “tolerates inequalities.”
Matthew  Wilson, a member
of the Connecticut
Congressional Youth
Cabinet, and Andrea
Kandel, executive director
of the National Conference
for Community and Justice.

He told the cabinet that young children who do not follow simple commands are usually more impulsive and therefore are proven to be more likely to become bullies or victims.
Andrea Kandel, executive director of the National Conference for Community and Justice in Windsor, Conn., told the youth cabinets that she thinks that family members will want to be involved in anti-bullying programs because the only way they can help now is to complain to the school administration.
Many adults who are familiar with bullying still have no experience with the type of online abuse faced by teens today through social media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Some of the youth said teachers don’t always respond when they bullying.
“Somehow the teachers and the faculty members are seeing the bullying but for whatever reasons they are not reporting it because they think it is not one of their responsibilities to do it,” Kandel said. “Even if they do, the school doesn’t do anything with it because they don’t want to upset the wrong people but they are still upsetting other people.”
Now all Connecticut teachers are mandatory reporters, obligated to report any bullying or abusive behavior they see.
Some schools punish students who bully by giving them a detention or suspending them from school for a day or two.
But Nicholas Grondin, a Congressional Youth Cabinet member from Newington, Conn., said it doesn't work.
“Suspending students doesn’t help," said Grondin. "It’s is like a little break instead of doing something about the issue."

Congress Seeking More Help From Youth

Matthew Wilson of Wethersfield, Conn.,
addressing U.S. Rep. John Larson's youth cabinet

By Yelena Samofalova and Erez Bittan
HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A.  – Three years after U.S. Rep. John Larson broke ground by creating for the first time a youth cabinet to advise him, a second congressman has followed suit.
The Missouri congressman, William Lacy Clay, said he decided to create his own after seeing Larson’s group in action during an event last summer at the Harriett Beecher Stowe House in Hartford that drew a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
On Saturday, the two youth panels held a joint session by teleconference to talk about their experiences and to address the topic of bullying.
Yelena Samofalova/
U.S. Rep. John Larson's youth cabinet

The purpose of the cabinets is to give young adults a voice in the operation of their government.
Larson said young people should have more access to the “levers of power in the United States Congress” and the cabinets are one way to make it happen.
One of Larson’s aides, Eva Bunnell, who came up with idea years ago, said she feels “young people deserve a seat at the table.”
Larson said that generally, “The opinions of youth are not taken seriously enough.”
Larson said his youth cabinet, which has representatives from most of the high schools in his district, is “actually making change” through its work. “It’s not just a passive appointment,” Larson said.
Cabinet member Matthew Wilson, a junior at Wethersfield High School in Wethersfield, Conn., said “even raising awareness of any issue by youth is really effective and just having this partnership with the congressman, where he listens to what we have to say and attempts to shape policy around it, that is very effective.”
Clay said the cabinets are a great example of what energized young people can offer to their community.
The acting co-chairman of the Congressional Youth Cabinet, Calvin Brown of Bristol, said that in order to have their voices heard, teens should get “involved with various things that are going on” around them.
“They bring to the table what’s going on in their own towns,” Bunnell said.
Wilson said that they measure their effectiveness by the number of people who approach them with problems.
The new Missouri cabinet and the Connecticut cabinet  may soon have more partners. Larson said two more are in the works in other states.
“It’s great to see our numbers continue to grow,” Larson said.
Clay said he hopes it will “spread like wildfire” and their end goal is to have 435 cabinets all over the nation, one for each congressional district.
Larson said he would like to bring the youth cabinet to the nation’s capital to meet government officials.
He said he would put them on train in Hartford and “we’ll boogie right into Grand Central” Station in New York before heading south to Washington.
Clay said he’d like to bring the two cabinets together at the Capitol but his group would have to fly there from Missouri.
They both said that perhaps two other youth cabinets that are forming elsewhere may be able to participate, too.
Larson said it couldn’t be a long trip because members are so busy but he’s sure it would be great.
Senior Reporter Kiernan Majerus-Collins contributed to this story.

YJI Reporters With U.S. Rep. John Larson

From left, Youth Journalism International reporters
Kiernan Majerus-Collins, Yelena Samofalova,
Connecticut Congressman John Larson, 
Youth Journalism International reporters Ameni Mathlouthi,
Erez Bittan and Mary Majerus-Collins on 
Saturday, Feb. 18 at Larson's Hartford office. 
The student reporters were covering a meeting of Larson's
Congressional Youth Cabinet.

Youth In Two States Are Heard

A team of Youth Journalism International students in Hartford is covering the first joint meeting of the only two youth cabinets formed by U.S. members of Congress so far.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins
Packed into a crowded conference room in U.S. Rep. John Larson's office, cabinet members from many high schools and a few colleges are talking via Skype with a similar cabinet created more recently by U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay of Missouri.
You can follow what's going on via Senior Reporter Kiernan Majerus-Collins' ongoing account on Twitter @yjinternational.
There are also pictures at
There will be more later.
If you're curious, here is a story about the formation of Larson's youth cabinet in 2009. And here is what they had to say right off the bat. Here is a story about youth worries about poverty.
Here are some more pictures from today's meeting:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi Skypes With Students

Wen Jian /

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Skypes Tuesday with university students in France 

By Sara Chatterjee
Junior Reporter
LE HAVRE, FranceThis Valentine’s Day was completely out of the ordinary for students of the international university SciencesPo, because they spent the morning in conversation with Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Aung San Suu Kyi in her
Facebook profile picture
Suu Kyi, the head of Burma’s National League for Democracy and the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, had a videoconference Tuesday with about 120 students, who asked questions about her political and economic priorities.
Suu Kyi emphasized the need to “open up” the country in all senses of the term – to establish a transparent democracy, a more liberal economy and to allow people to enter and exit the country freely.
When a student asked her what the Burmese people’s greatest desire was, she replied without hesitation, “Freedom from poverty.”
Even before her party won the 1990 general election – a victory the military government refused to recognize – Suu Kyi has been the rallying point of the Burmese movement for democracy.
After many years keeping Suu Kyi under house arrest, the regime finally released her in 2010. She is now a candidate in the parliamentary elections set for April 1, along with other members of the National League for Democracy party.
Today, the government of former General Thein Sein, who is now president in Burma, is freeing political prisoners and undertaking some liberal reforms – all of which may be early signs of a historic transition to democracy.
U.S. State Department map
Though Burma is a country rich in natural resources, its population is among the poorest in the world.
Other students asked about what kind of role the Burmese Army would take once the democratic transition had been made. To this, Suu Kyi replied that it would take on the role of the army in any democracy.
“The United States has the most powerful army in the world, and it is still a democracy,” she added.
Several students asked Daw Suu, which is an honorific name for Suu Kyi, about the role of their respective countries in accelerating or decelerating this transition.
While she remained diplomatic, suggesting that the Burmese people would be very grateful for any help from abroad, Burma’s foreign relations show the power of the international community.
India and China, Burma’s immediate neighbors and nations with growing economies, have not imposed any trade sanctions on Burma, but sanctions by the European Union and the United States have proven effective in urging the current reform process.
Students knew of Suu Kyi’s relentless dedication to the cause of democracy and her constant presence beside her people, and something of the great personal cost she’s paid.
What the Skype conference showed was Suu Kyi holding her own humility right alongside the hopes of all her countrymen.
With some participants inspired to the verge of tears, this was a day the students of SciencesPo Le Havre will remember forever.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Remembering A Heroic Armenian Journalist

By Narine Daneghyan
Senior Reporter
YEREVAN, Armenia – A little more than five years ago, Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was shot dead in Istanbul.
I will never forget the day he died.
My family was gathered in the living room, watching television, when a breaking news report began.
Dink, who had the courage to raise the taboo subject of the Armenian genocide in Turkey, had been gunned down.
Well known in both Armenia and Turkey, Dink was an outspoken advocate for peace between the two bitterly estranged nations.
Hrant Dink
But rabid Turkish nationalists hated him because he spoke openly about the killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the genocide that began during World War I.
Dink once said that Armenians “all have an intuition about something broken in the past. It’s in our genetic code” and reached back a century to the time when survivors scattered across the globe.
Despite warnings, Dink refused to leave Turkey, instead campaigning to improve relations by convincing the government in Ankara to admit what the world has long known: that Armenians were massacred by Turks.
Refusing to call himself a Turk, Hrant was charged a number of times under the strict Turkish penal code for "denigrating Turkey" and "insulting Turkish identity,” penalties that sometimes sent him to jail but left him with an international reputation for courage and truth.
In January 2007, a 17-year-old Turkish nationalist, Ogun Samast, shot him three times in the head, killing Dink.
Samast, sentenced to more than 21 years in prison last summer, posed with police and army officers before his apprehension in a Black Sea coastal city where patriotism and machismo run high.
Last month, two others involved the killing were sentence to life behind bars by the Turkish court. But most of those suspected of playing a role remain free.
For me, Dink is a hero – a person whose most heroic act was in knowing that it was too dangerous to do what he was trying to do, yet staying in Turkey and pursuing it anyway.
Dink chose to ignore the threats and remain there to defend his ideals: free speech, unity, humanity, ethnic pride, and historical accuracy.
He wound up dying for his dream.
Dink is my idol in journalism, a man from whom every journalist can learn what it means to tell the truth, even in places where doing so is dangerous and, sometimes, deadly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Celebrated In Pakistan, Too

This is a photograph of a store in Lahore, Pakistan today by Youth Journalism International Reporter Arooj Khalid. She reports that many in Pakistan celebrate the holiday despite misgivings by some about its legendary connection to the Christian St. Valentine.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine’s Day: Flowers, Fun and Fakery?

By Madison Pollard
LONDON, England – February 14th. Seemingly just another day on the calendar, but no. The day of Saint Valentine, chosen as the ‘most romantic day of the year,’ is a day for wining, dining, giving and fighting.
For those of you who didn’t know, celebration of Valentine’s Day has been around long enough to warrant mention in Geoffrey Chaucer's writings in the High Middle Ages.
Valentine's Day isn’t celebrated worldwide.
In Wales, instead of (or on occasion, as well as) Valentine’s Day, they celebrate St. Dwynwen’s Day on the 25th of January.
In Finland and Slovenia, it is known as ‘Friendship Day,’ designed to celebrate the close bonds of friendship, rather than romantic love.
In Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the traditions only became popular due to mass advertising by various consumer industries such as florists.
Despite its less than perfect origins, Valentine’s Day has become the day to show that you can be romantic.
Cards, chocolate, presents, dinner and many other tokens are used to prove to your sweetheart that you love them. The valentines industry is worth millions, if not billions, of dollars worldwide.
But is it really a day we should be celebrating?
Granted, it is nice to know that you can expect a romantic day once a year, particularly if you have an innately romantic partner.
But rather than encouraging them to believe that it is acceptable to show they care just once a year, shouldn’t we expect more of them?
Now, I’m not suggesting that it become mandatory for a romantic dinner once a week, and flowers at least once a month, but love is not something fleeting. It doesn’t just happen for one day a year, and certainly not because we are told it should.
Whilst I applaud the efforts made on Valentine’s Day to show love among couples, I am sure that I cannot be alone in wishing that the same affection was shown more often.
Still, here’s to love at any cost, even if it is only demonstrated once a year.
So, Happy Valentine’s, and I imagine it will be the most romantic day of your life, at least for another year.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

How To Survive Valentine's Day Single

By Celeste Kurz
WEST HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – With Valentine’s Day so close, stores are filled to the brim with chocolates, flowers, and an excess of pink hearts.
Whether you are in a relationship, want to be in one, or are enjoying single life, it is impossible to forget that February 14th is just around the corner.
As with most other holidays people seem to have many different attitudes toward the day. Some take the expected Hallmark approach, and appear to have been struck with Cupid’s arrow multiple times.
But as I’ve grown older I’ve noticed the growth of another group, those who loathe the 14th and dread its arrival like the coming of death. It is these people in particular who would rather recount the details of Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre instead of appreciating the symbol of love that it has become.
One might assume that this category of people is limited solely to bitter singles seething with resentment, but I have found it to include individuals desperately seeking another and even couples who refuse to take part in the “mainstream” Hallmark event.
While I can’t offer advice to those rejecting the stereotype, I do have a suggestion for those depressed by the idea of a Valentine’s Day spent in solitude. Before you whip out the pint of ice cream and take up residence on the couch, think about all of the Februarys to come and the unlimited possible ways to spend this once-dreaded day.
Odds are at least one person you know is also flying solo on V-day – maybe even a few – so why not hang out with them?
By no means is this a date. Don’t let the day put a label on a simple night out with friends. Company is the strongest antidote for loneliness. Use it.
Another simple strategy is to change your attitude. It’s just one day, and the second you decide to stop hating it, I promise it will also stop hating you. Hopefully your new outlook will also rub off on others not fortunate enough to read this.
Whatever category you find yourself in, remember that Valentine’s Day is still just one out of 365 days that happen every year. Crying for hours in front of your TV won’t solve anything; you’ll just end up feeling even worse than you did before.
So cheer up, and don’t let those pink hearts get you down.      

Saturday, February 11, 2012

With 'Les Mis' Role, Samantha Barks Leaps From London's West End To Hollywood

By Emily Couch
COTLEIGH, Devon, England – At just 21 years of age, Samantha Barks is set to make the momentous leap from the London stage to Hollywood stardom. 
For everyone who dreams big, Barks – currently starring as Nancy in the UK tour of Oliver! – is a true inspiration with her shining talent and tenacity.  
Renowned theater producer Cameron Mackintosh set the Twitter world aflutter last week with his announcement that Barks would play Eponine in the much-anticipated film of the hit musical Les Misérables.   
She will join a stellar cast including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried to shoot the film for a release date of Dec. 7, 2012. 
Before the announcement, the internet was rife with rumors about who would land the role.  Speculation included Glee’s Lea Michele and Grammy award-winning country singer Taylor Swift. 
The news spread like wildfire over twitter and in a matter of minutes, hundreds of fans and performers alike had tweeted the elated Barks their heartfelt congratulations.
British TV star Matt Lucas, who played Monsieur Thenardier in the recent 25th anniversary of Les Misérables, tweeted:  “Fantastic news about the brilliant Samantha Barks getting Eponine in the Les Mis movie.  Couldn’t happen to a lovelier girl.”
Sabrina Aloueche, who played Scaramouche in the West End show We Will Rock You, tweeted:  “Great and historical news for musical theatre tonight as one of our own is set for Hollywood stardom! Congrats.” 
Barks herself tweeted: “Most incredible moment of my life!!!! X”  
And it’s fairly easy to imagine that this is the case.
Barks began her career in the public eye at the tender age of 18 on the reality TV show I’d Do Anything, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s search for Nancy in the West End revival of Oliver! 
Finishing in the top three out of thousands of West End hopefuls, Barks had shown the British public her mettle and went on to star in shows such as Cabaret as well as do several successful concerts.
From 2010 to 2011, Barks played Eponine for the first time in the London production of Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre.
Having been wowed by her opening night, Mackintosh asked Barks to reprise her role in the 25th anniversary of the show at the O2 arena alongside stars such as Lea Salonga and pop star Nick Jonas.  
The concert introduced her to an international audience, increasing her already large fan base.
Think you won’t see Barks if you’re not a musical fan? Think again.
Cementing Barks’ bridge over the Atlantic is her part in the Disney Chanel’s new animated series, Groove High, which will be aired this spring.  
As a consummate theater fan, I could not have wished for anyone else other than Barks to play in the film version of Les Misérables, and clearly, I wasn’t the only one.
So roll out the red carpet, Hollywood; move aside, Angelina Jolie.  Samantha Barks is coming to America and set to take the world by storm.   
Forget “dreaming the dream.” She’s living it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

YJI Afghan, Indian Students Meet In Delhi

     Youth Journalism International's Edrees Kakar of Kabul, Afghanistan, recently traveled to India. While there,  he met and spent time with student Roohani Deshpande of Delhi. The two are pictured in the above photo.
     On his travels, Edrees also spoke with two other YJI students, Puskal Shivam of Mumbai and Rachel Glogowski, of Connecticut, U.S.A., who is studying in India. Because of logistics, he wasn't able to meet with either of them in person, but made the most of his time seeing all he could of that fascinating country.
     We're happy to show more evidence of YJI students connecting, in person and online, to build bridges of understanding between people, cultures and nations. Together, our students are changing the world for the better.
      Watch this space for more photos from Edrees and his travel piece about India.