Mugdha Gurram of Connecticut, Tamar Gorgadze of Virginia and Van Nguyen of Hanoi, Vietnam became friends through a Youth Journalism International trip to Washington, D.C.
Coming from vastly different backgrounds, they put aside any differences and shared personal stories and experiences.
Mirwais Kakar of Kabul, Afghanistan, Mugdha Gurram and Hila Yosafi-Lehman of Connecticut and Van Nguyen of Hanoi, Vietnam stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool behind them.
They bonded over pandas at the National Zoo, bravely tried new foods, posed in front of presidential monuments, checked out Chinatown and saw part of the Berlin Wall up close at the Newseum.
Van Nguyen, Hila Yosafi-Lehman and
Mugdha Gurram with the YJI Mobile, ready to
drive from Connecticut to Washington, D.C.
A lot of people helped make this happen. Inspired by our Toronto Tour 2014 in June, two generous donors this fall bought YJI a beautiful van to safely carry students wherever the story takes us. They want to remain anonymous, but everyone here at YJI is grateful for their generosity.
Another key supporter donated funds for a hotel room that was shared by two adult advisors and two students, making it possible for us to stay at the conference.
Gifts from other donors paid for conference fees, fuel and tolls.
The journey, which Connecticut student Mugdha Gurram called “amazing,” couldn’t have happened without that help.
YJI Ambassador Hila Yosafi-Lehman
with students Mirwais Kakar, Van
Nguyen, Mugdha Gurram and
Sydney Hallett of St. Louis in front of the
entrance to Chinatown in Washington.
A travelers "selfie" with YJI Ambassador
Michelle Harmon. From left, Mugdha Gurram,
Jackie Majerus, Hila Yosafi-Lehman and
Attorney Hila Yosafi-Lehman, a YJI alum and Ambassador, took time off from her job to travel with the students and help YJI Executive Director Jackie Majerus guide them in Washington. At the conference, students met YJI Ambassador Michelle Harmon, a journalism teacher in Boise, Idaho.
We’ve called YJI a “peace factory,” because in addition to teaching journalism skills like interviewing and reporting and helping students polish their writing, Youth Journalism International builds bridges of understanding between young people of different cultures, religions, races and nations. From there, valuable friendships grow and flourish.
YJI Executive Director Jackie Majerus and Ambassador Hila Yosafi-Lehman at YJI's table in the exhibit area of the National Scholastic Press Association conference last week.
At the Newseum, YJI students Mirwais Kakar,
Van Nguyen, Mugdha Gurram, Sydney Hallet
and Ambassador Hila Yosafi-Lehman.
While our destination was the fall conference of the National Scholastic Press Association – and students absorbed a lot of exciting lessons and came away inspired – they agreed that meeting and getting to know each other was even better.
As one of our travelers, Van Nguyen of Hanoi, Vietnam, said, “I can feel the warmth of a family here.”
Watch this space in the coming days for news stories and first person accounts from Mugdha, Van and others about their adventures in Washington.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at