Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fireworks In Lahore For Resolution Day

Arooj Khalid /
 In Lahore, Pakistan, people celebrated Pakistan Resolution Day, held on March 23, with fireworks. The holiday marks the day when the resolution was passed for a separate Muslim homeland, which is Pakistan. At midnight, there were fireworks in Race Course Park in Lahore. YJI photographer Arooj Khalid wasn't able to go to the park, but got these pictures from her home, where her view was partially obscured by trees and other houses. 
Arooj Khalid /

Arooj Khalid /

Arooj Khalid /

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Youth Issues To Be Part Of A New Nigeria

Festus Iyorah /

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of Nigeria spoke at a journalism conference at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka this week.

By Linus Okechukwu and Festus Iyorah
NSUKKA, Enugu, Nigeria – Youth interests must be part of Nigeria’s national rebirth and transformation, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said at a journalism education conference this week.
Abubakar called on the media and society to help advance those interests.
“We must help our youth to find their part in this world or the one they will help to create, and help them follow that part with enthusiasm, commitment, fidelity and dedication,” Abubakar said. “The media can help our young people by exposing bad deeds, promoting good deeds, highlighting good people and good deeds. That way we can help our youth to help change the world for the better.”
Abubakar gave his keynote address, “Media, Youth and Nigeria’s Development Challenges” at the 16th annual conference of the African Council for Communication Education at the Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria in Nsukka.
Festus Iyorah /
Part of the crowd at this week's conference.
The conference will be of great importance given that “it deliberates on ways to ensure that the more than 10 million out-of-school children are in school,” Abubakar said.
The former vice president called youth to action.
“Get an education, acquire useful skills; become aware; dream big; and aim for your dream,” he urged them. “Do not constrain yourselves; and do not settle for half-measures. Follow your heart; the road may be rough but then only rough roads lead to somewhere desirable. Opportunities abound in this country’s economy and in the economy of the 21st century which we should be building.”
Festus Iyorah /
Prof. Chris Ogbondah from
the University of Northern Iowa.

The conference, which focused on the impact of communication – especially new media – and on children and the youth drew renowned scholars from the United States, Sierra-Leone, South Africa as well as a number of Nigerian academics.
Professor Chris Ogbondah, who teaches journalism in America at the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, was pleased to be part of it.
“I feel great! A conference like this in Nigeria is a learning experience in terms of gaining knowledge,” said Ogbondah. “It is a time to tap from other people’s brain. For me, it is always a learning experience.”
Students who attended were thrilled at the opportunity.
“I feel very great to have participated in this kind of conference which has gathered scholars from different walks of life,” said 20-year-old James Ojo, a first-year student of mass communication. 
“I have really learnt a lot," Ojo said. "I have gotten a lot of experience and knowledge about communication.”
Festus Iyorah /
Student James Ojo
Second-year mass communication student Victor Agi, 20, said he felt very excited to have participated in the conference. He said the lessons learnt in the conference would remain invaluable.
“Communication has had negative and positive effects on the youth. For me, this type of forum is very important. It is a conference I would love to attend again and again,” Agi said.
Professor Cecil Blake, who teaches African studies at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, was enthusiastic about being in Nigeria.
“I am always happy to be in Nigeria. I feel I am part and parcel of this organization,” Blake said.
Festus Iyorah /

Professors and other dignitaries stand with former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is in the center wearing a traditional robe and hat.
Ogbondah said the conference theme, “Communication, Children and the Youth in the 21st Century,” is relevant because the pervasive nature of today’s media has made any public discourse on children and the youth valuable.
“Technological revolution has made this the age of instant communication where children and youth are more exposed to mass media than ever before,” the professor from Iowa said.
With a large number of parents now working, Ogbondah said, children and youth are normally left at home unsupervised, so the theme of the conference comes in handy at a time when the world is increasingly becoming technologically-driven.
“It is good to have a theme like this that will examine the type of effects, if any, may be having on children in terms of exhibiting violent tendencies and criminal behavior” Ogbondah said.
Blake, who previously served as Sierra Leone’s information minister, said rapid developments in information and communications technology have exposed children and youth to the media, so the conference theme came at a time when it is highly needed.

Youth Journalism International reporters Festus Iyorah, left, and Linus Okechukwu, right, with Professor Cecil Blake of the University of Pittsburgh.
Despite the negative effects of social media, Blake said, “It is too early to speak categorically on whether” they should be banned outright or used solely for academic purposes.
Blake equally charged professors “to nurture a young generation who would diversify their research” given the dearth of diversity in content and communication researches generally.
Blake commended the African Council for Communication Education in Nigeria for remaining committed to the organization and taking a leadership role.
“Without the ACCE in Nigeria, the organization in the continent is meaningless,” said Blake.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Shivering With Cold And Excitement - And Covering The President Of The United States
Youth Journalism International reporter Sherry Sah looks back for a moment while President Barack Obama, at the lectern in the background, speaks to a crowd at Central Connecticut State University last Wednesday.

By Sherry Sah
Junior Reporter
MANCHESTER, Conn., U.S.A. – Standing and waiting in line to go and see President Barack Obama was an amazing experience.
The cold wind swept around my body as I shivered outside the gym at Central Connecticut State University, where he spoke last week.
I couldn't believe that I was actually going to see the president of the United States. As the lines grew shorter, my turn finally came.
Sherry Sah /
Billie Jefferson and Raisa Koch, both 17-year-old seniors at Conard High School in West Hartford, had the job of checking media credentials at Central Connecticut State University when President Barack Obama visited.
Youth Journalism International reporter
Sherry Sah's credentials, from YJI, on the
left, and from the White House, on the right.
YJI reporter Sherry Sah waiting
in the cold.

My heart was beating like crazy. When I was finished getting checked by the police, I made my way into the auditorium. 
As soon as my feet hit the gymnasium floor, the sounds of the university’s band soothed my ears.
As I made my way to the side where members of the press were, more and more people crowded into the gymnasium.
After everyone took their seats and we heard from the college president and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, President Obama took the stand. 
The crowd went crazy chanting his name.
As soon as he started speaking about the minimum wage, everyone listened.
It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Equality for Women Is Progress for All

By Lauren Pope
Junior Reporter
BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom – March 8th is International Women’s Day, a worldwide celebration recognizing the great achievements made by females throughout the world.
International Women’s Day has existed for more than a century, and is accepted by the United Nations as an official holiday in 27 countries. It is a day to consider your female role models, and how they have helped make the world a better place – even in the simplest of ways.
Some people may argue that International Women’s Day is an unnecessary event, because if it’s all about equality, then shouldn’t we just hold one celebration for achievements made regardless of gender?
I do believe that is something we should work towards, but for now that is not the case, as female voices are still going unheard, and it is essential that everyone has their say.
As someone who attends an all-girls school, it is made known to my peers and I about the lack of women present in the top jobs in society. Several teachers spend their time encouraging us girls to go after the more male-dominated professions.
According to, about one in five members of parliament are women, compared to more than half of the population being female. I find it very hard to believe this is for lack of women trying.
According to the Office for National Statistics in Britain, today women are still earning 15 percent less than men per hour, costing them more than £5,000 a year for the same job, or more than $8,300 in American dollars.
Statistics like these can be seen as discouraging, and in my opinion International Women’s Day plays a large part in showing generations that just because things aren’t pointing in their favor, doesn’t mean that success is unattainable.
Every year the UN choose an official theme for International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is, ‘Equality for women is progress for all.’
When we have gender equality, we will be one step closer to making our world a fairer place for all to live with equal chances of success and failure.
I am not oblivious to the many obstacles in the way of achieving this, but, as said by Audrey Hepburn, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible!’”
I’m sure there are many people participating in celebrations across the world in honor of International Women’s Day, and Birmingham, United Kingdom, the city I live in, is one of them.
Here in Birmingham, an afternoon of inspirational talks, music and poetry will be taking place to celebrate how the arts have helped women progress, and have been used as a force of good. 
To me, females being equivalent to males isn’t about giving them certain opportunities or chances, it is about allowing them access to the opportunities and chances that were previously off limits.
International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the extraordinary efforts made by ordinary women in every way possible across the world.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Obama Visits Connecticut Campus, Makes Case For Raising Federal Minimum Wage
With students behind him, President Barack Obama speaks Wednesday at Central Connecticut State University.

By Sherry Sah
Junior Reporter
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – It’s time to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, President Barack Obama told a cheering, enthusiastic crowd at Central Connecticut State University today.
“Too many Americans are working harder than ever just to keep up,” Obama said. “Nobody that works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. It’s time to give America a raise.”
Governors from four states – Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut – sat behind Obama on the stage.
Sherry Sah /
President Obama at CCSU
“Each of us cares deeply about creating new jobs,” Obama said, later adding that New Hampshire is also part of the regional coalition.
The president called the four “the Justice League of governors,” and joked, “I’d call them the New England Patriots, but that name is already taken.”
The nation’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in five years, Obama said, but there are other, troubling trends that have been “battering” the middle class.
“Average wages have barely budged,” Obama said.
The goal is to “build an economy that works for everybody, not just for some,” the president said, including equal pay for equal work and job training.
Minimum wage earners are not typically teenagers, Obama said, but on average are 35 years old and mostly women. He said many of them work full time and struggle to support a family on $7.25 an hour, the current federal minimum wage.
Obama also addressed the high cost of college. He said every young person deserves a fair chance to go to college.
Sherry Sah /

CCSU music education
major Alexander O'Neil
sang the national anthem
before Obama's speech,
an amazing moment he
said was one of the
biggest in his life.
“No young person should be priced out of a higher education,” the president said. He said it’s tough to pay for college on the low pay of a work study position.
Raising the minimum wage, the president said, is “common sense” and would make a huge difference for many families.
“This is not a small thing. This is a big deal,” said Obama.
Having Obama visit was also a big deal to local officials and students.
State Rep. Betty Boukus, a Democrat from Plainville, said she shook Obama’s hand. Having the president here was “just wonderful,” she said.
CCSU freshman Arnes Capacho, 18, said he agreed with what the president wants to do with the minimum wage.
Graduate students Michelle Triompo, 25, of Rocky Hill and Jessica Folod, 30, of Bristol, said they think raising the minimum wage is a great idea.
Folod said she could relate to what the president said.
Sherry Sah /
Mayor Erin Stewart
New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, a 26-year-old CCSU alum, said she was “completely honored” to have the president in her city and speaking at her alma mater.
Stewart, a Republican, called raising the minimum wage “a Band Aid” that won’t fix the problem. While she said she understands that the current minimum wage is “not necessarily a livable wage,” the focus should be on being more business friendly so new jobs are better paying ones with benefits like health insurance.
Stewart said she got a lot of grief for her posts on Twitter from fellow Republicans about her wanting to take a ‘selfie’ with Obama. While she didn’t get the picture she wanted, she said, she definitely tried.
While she may disagree with Obama on raising the minimum wage, Stewart said it doesn’t matter.
“It’s up to Congress now,” said Stewart.

Protesters Focused On Environment,

 Economy and Ukraine

By Sherry Sah
Junior Reporter
NEW BRITAIN – Outside the gymnasium where President Obama spoke Wednesday afternoon, protesters held signs and chanted about a variety of issues.
Paul Gebauer, a postal worker from Clinton, Connecticut, held a sign with his daughter’s photo and a reminder of Obama’s early promise to make climate change a priority.
“I care about the climate,” Gebauer said.
Sherry Sah /
These protesters outside
the gym focused on the
situation in Ukraine.
Sky Button, a 17-year-old senior at Windsor High School, opposes the Keystone XL pipeline project. He said he doesn’t like the president because he thinks he is too conservative.
John Ulatowski, a construction worker from West Haven who is out of work, said he wanted to be there to express his concerns.
“I am not happy with the economy right now,” Ulatowski said, adding that he’d like to see the president work to create better jobs, such as manufacturing, rather than focus on the minimum wage.
For Marko Rudik, a first-generation Ukrainian American, the issue was peace in Ukraine.
“We’d like President Obama to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine,” said Rudik, holding a large Ukrainian flag, and “answer the aggressive action” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Rudik said he didn’t want military action, but rather measures like sanctions or changes to trade agreements. He said he wants Ukraine to remain whole and be at peace.

Feeling Lost And Scared In Embattled Syria

Due to the dangerous situation in Syria, especially for journalists, Youth Journalism International is taking the extremely rare step of withholding the name of this writer, who is a teenager in a Syrian city. We are grateful for the bravery this writer shows by speaking out and we are glad to be a platform for these words. We know who this young journalist is, but we cannot justify putting our student in harm’s way by publishing identifying information such as name, gender, age or address.

By A Young Syrian Citizen
Junior Reporter
SYRIA – When people hear the name Syria, what is the first thing that comes to their minds?
Do they think about the start of the revolution that people thought was their path to freedom or do they think it's a country inhabited by nothing but terrorists or that it's just another Iraqi scenario waiting to happen?
I can't remember the last time I wondered if anyone actually knew that Syria was on the map.
Before the fighting here began, I used to get so excited thinking maybe I would get a chance to go abroad, because I've always been an outsider who never fit in. Though I hate to admit it now, l used to really hate my country.
That was all before the whole thing began.
Once people started dying and getting kicked out of their homes, I began to remember the heaven we the Syrians were in before – how life was so carefree, how I wanted to be a journalist, how food and water were available and nobody died from hunger, how everyone had those dreams of becoming something great and of turning Syria into something wonderful.
Now, though, the highest hope for me and other students is to go live in another country because we are a lost cause.
We always had high hopes, but now everything is gone.
We can't dream any further. We just stopped.
Over time, our fears have taken off.
We used to worry that Syrians would never go back to the way we were.
But it grew into a fear of never seeing our loved ones who got arrested or kidnapped or just fled the country.
Then it became a fear of leaving our houses.
And then, finally, we feared death.

This is the second story this young reporter has written for YJI. You can read this young reporter's first piece from Syria here.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mardi Gras: A Delightful Blend Of Jambalaya, Zydeco, Beads, King Cake And Krewe

Kaley Willis /

Special Mardi Gras beads worn by the Krewe de Couion King. The tiger shows Louisiana State University Tigers pride.

By Kaley Willis
Senior Reporter
LAKE CHARLES, Louisiana, U.S.A. – Living in Southwest Louisiana during Mardi Gras can only be described in one way – one fun celebration.
Students get a week-long break from school and there is always a parade, party, or gumbo cook-off happening around the corner.
After coming to the realization that I, being a Louisiana native, have never fully experienced Mardi Gras, I decided to dedicate a whole day to nothing but Mardi Gras festivities, and the results were better than I could have ever anticipated.
Kaley Willis /

The official tee shirt of the
Krewe de Couion.
On Sunday, I woke up, ate a slice of cream cheese King Cake, and got ready for my Cajun adventures.
My day began at the Krewe De Couion party, a krewe founded in 2001 by John and Joyce McRae and dedicated to having a good time, celebrating Cajun customs, and treating each other like family.
A krewe is a group of people of all ages who celebrate Mardi Gras under a certain name. Anyone can start a krewe. Names are often in French and hint at a theme, such as simplicity, the cosmos or, in this case, the Krewe de Couion, or krewe of crazy.
I talked to Kristen Fuselier, a 21-year-old who has been a member of the krewe since she was a child.
“Being a member of Krewe de Couion is more like being in a big family. We’re all so close, I am able to go to them for anything,” she said. “It’s times like these when we’re all together when we can have a really great time.”
Kaley Willis /

2013 Krewe de Couion Queen Becky
Fuselier stands next to a list past krewe
This particular Krewe de Couion get-together, held in Carlyss, La., was celebrating the reigning King and Queen who donned bejeweled crowns and beautiful capes.
The krewe didn’t always have these luxuries for their royalty, however.
The 2013 Krewe de Couion Queen Becky Fuselier said, “Our king and queen wore paper crowns from Burger King and paper capes for a long time. We’ve always been a very simple krewe.”
While this krewe may enjoy the simple things in life, their celebration featured all of the wonderful characteristics of Louisiana life; Zydeco music, which is a special genre originating from Southwest Louisiana, dancing, and all the Cajun food you can eat, like jambalaya, gumbo, boudin and crawfish.
The krewe, an interesting mix of people of all ages from different backgrounds, came together to celebrate the King, Queen, and Revelry, who are like the royal court jesters. They dress up like jesters and dance around behind the King and Queen.
At this party, the krewe’s royalty took a walk around the room to the sounds of musicians playing Zydeco music on harmonica, saxophone, and accordion.
After eating a hearty meal of jambalaya – a dish of rice, meat and vegetables, and my favorite Cajun cuisine – I headed off for my next adventure of the day, the Lake Charles Children’s Parade.
Kaley Willis /
An alligator float in the Lake Charles Children's Parade
Young eager faces lined up along the Lake Charles streets as the Mardi Gras Children’s Parade began.
Kaley Willis /

The crowd tries to catch beads and candy
thrown from the floats.
This year, Lake Charles hosted one of its biggest parades in years as more than 130 floats caught the eyes of thousands of parade-goers. 

Many local krewes, businesses, and clubs made floats for the parade, showcasing the official colors of Mardi Gras: purple, green, and gold.

Candy, stuffed animals, and strings of colorful beads were thrown off of the floats into the crowd, as everyone tried their best to catch as many beads as possible.

Children of all ages had beads stacked up to their chins, as music and cheering filled the air while the crowd enjoyed watching those lucky enough to ride atop the floats.
Kaley Willis /

Above, one of the decorated boats in the 
nighttime parade in Lake Charles. 
Below, the parade crowd tries to catch 
beads and candy tossed from the boats.

While traditional parades like these are common around Louisiana, Lake Charles has a unique twist to the typical parade at night when the Lighted Boat Parade made its way along the Lake Charles Seawall.
Local mariners decorated their yachts and tugboats with beautiful lights and Mardi Gras decorations.
People in the crowd, bundled up in the chilly weather along the dock, tried hard to catch beads and cups, much like the land parade earlier.
A gorgeous and festive end to the night, the Lighted Boat Parade perfectly represented Southwest Louisiana and the Mardi Gras season.
Youth Journalism International Senior Reporter Kaley Willis in front of a float at the Lake Charles parade, wearing the Mardi Gras beads she caught. Naturally, they're a fine accessory for her YJI shirt.