Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kansas City Offers Art, Music, Theater

Stephanie Hamann /
Kansas City's nickname is the City of Fountains. The water in the fountain is colored blue in this picture because blue is one of the colors of the Kansas City Royals baseball team and the city was hosting the All-Star Game last summer. The tower beyond the fountain is part of the Country Club Plaza, which is a shopping area.

By Stephanie Hamann
Junior Reporter
KANSAS CITY, Missouri, U.S.A. – As a Kansas Citian, I consider myself privileged to have spent my young life here.
This is not New York, Tokyo, or any other massive, renowned metropolis, yet I am comfortable in Kansas City.
I have grown up with the entertainment, art and memories offered by the atmosphere, enjoying what Kansas City has to offer. As with any place on Earth, however, there is more to see outside Kansas City, and I hope to see much more and move away after high school.
Still, I am proud of what we have here.
Stephanie Hamann /
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
For instance, a new attraction, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, offers entertainment for lovers of music, theater and opera.
The venue itself is beautiful; it is an architectural masterpiece.
Many school field trip memories of mine take place at another impressive location, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. At first sight I was amazed at the newer, brighter section of the museum, the Bloch Building, where open, white space compliments the modern artwork inside.
Stephanie Hamann /
Bloch Building, the newer part of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
We have our traditions, like First Friday, which is when Kansas Citians flock downtown to an area called the Crossroads and observe art and music on the first Friday of each month. First Friday always magnifies the diversity of Kansas City, for all sorts of people – clean-cut, quirky and curious – can be seen at the Crossroads during this Kansas City tradition.
Stephanie Hamann /
Arthur Bryant's, a renowned 
Kansas City
barbecue place
Kansas City is known for its status as a jazz capital and a place for barbeque. I know next to nothing about our jazz heritage, and I believe I have never gone to any of our major barbeque restaurants.
A person does not need to be jazz and barbeque fans in order to love Kansas City, however.
I enjoy immersing myself in the performing arts that Kansas City has to offer. Others prefer our sports teams and are loyal fans, however boring the baseball and football seasons are. Our baseball team, the Royals, and our football team, the Chiefs, both manage to have forgettable seasons too often. This does not bother me, however, since I follow neither baseball nor professional football.
There is more to Kansas City than the handful of skyscrapers downtown; my street, for example, lacks characteristics of an urban dwelling, having tall trees and spacious yards.
Apart from the city of Kansas City, the Kansas City metro area includes many counties and cities.
Stephanie Hamann /
Park Place, a trendy shopping 
area in Leawood, Kansas
Within the metro area, which includes areas of both the states of Kansas and Missouri, diversity reigns.
On one hand, Leawood, Kansas boasts new, expensive houses while Grandview, Missouri exudes the aura of small town America. However different the two are, they both belong in the Kansas City metro area.
With dramatically different cities and counties making up the metro area, I feel lucky to have experienced the diversity around me.
Stephanie Hamann /
Town Center Plaza, near Park Place, in
Leawood, Kansas
In short, I love Kansas City for the enjoyable memories and experiences; it is my home, after all. Indeed, I have spent 15 years in Kansas City.
I have shopped around the beautiful Country Club Plaza, I have attended touring theatrical productions, I have made friends and I have had a blast.
There is more to Kansas City than what I have seen, however. For all I know, there are places hidden in Kansas City that will one day blow my mind and everyone else’s.

Stephanie Hamann /
The tower is part of the Country Club Plaza shopping area
While the possibility of hidden gems here is great, I do not feel the need to know every inch of Kansas City. I am fine knowing what I know and moving on.
I hope I never leave my roots too far behind, though, and stop thinking or caring about Kansas City.
Stephanie Hamann /
President Harry S. Truman's childhood farmhouse in Grandview, Missouri
In the future, I will want to visit, however far away I am. Luckily I will, since my parents will be here. Wherever I live as a grownup, I will not cut off connection to Kansas City.
There is too much here to be ignored. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

SAT Not A Fair Judge For College Placement

By Cresonia Hsieh
Senior Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, Florida, U.S.A. – Upon entering the barren classroom, anxiety runs high as students’ sharpened No. 2 pencils and calculators quiver and shake. For the test is merciless, unrelenting, and unfortunately, is a major determinate in their future.
After a lifetime of schooling and months of subject-specific preparation, the day has finally arrived for the ultimate test of fate.
On this particular day, hundreds of thousands of students from all over America and three other continents: Asia, Europe, and Africa, will compete against one another for the test of their lives: the SAT.
Globally renowned, the SAT is used for the purpose of measuring the academic potential of high school students for college achievement and plays a significant role in college admissions.
According to the College Board, since the birth of the assessment in 1926, millions of students have taken these tests and have been accepted into college partly based on their score. But since then, some have questioned the legitimacy of the SAT due to unfair advantages given to wealthier and more privileged students. They argue that use of the test could prohibit the acceptance of some unprivileged but equally capable applicants.
It is because of this that some would like to see the abolishment of the SAT.
Although the SAT is an international test and has been used for years to aid in leveling the playing field for students, there is a significant difference in scores between the rich and the poor. While it is uncertain if the average 405 point difference is due to better schooling or inherited intelligence, there is no doubt that wealthier children have an advantage that the poor do not: the money for test preparation.
After Kaplan opened its doors in 1945 to the rich college-bound students, juniors and seniors everywhere have relied heavily on outside resources such as preparation books, classes, and even expensive one-on-one private tutoring.
Meanwhile, disadvantaged teens must solely rely on what they gathered from their years of schooling, without tutors, classes, and perhaps without even test preparation books. The College Board itself has even begun to offer study guides and online courses despite their claim that the SAT is deemed uncoachable.
While it is true that the SAT allows for the weeding out of potential students among thousands of applications, it is also important to note that the lingering existence of the SAT is partially credited to college rankings displayed by U.S News and World Report and Newsweek rankings.
These rankings use “student selectivity” – how tough it is for a student to be admitted – for 15 percent of their methodology. Hence, in order to advance in ranking, colleges may use the SAT scores to weed out students, despite its inaccuracy and bias against accepting other possible applicants who did not have the opportunity to afford the test preparation.
This can result in less ethnic diversity in colleges and a disregard for the potential of students who are merely poor test takers or financially disadvantaged.
Because of this, there is a movement among colleges and universities to eradicate the SAT from their applications. As of last year, 850 colleges and universities had already done so, including Bowdoin College, Wake Forest University, New York University, Middlebury College, American University, Bates College, Bryn Mawr College, and many more.
Subsequently, these colleges and universities have reported an improvement in the ethnic diversity of their student body.
As it stands now, the existence of the SAT may currently be threatening the future of many students because it offers an unfair advantage to wealthier test takers.
By extracting the SAT, ethnic diversity on college campuses would increase, and the school would have a better chance to view potential students as they truly are.
Additionally, colleges and universities may be wise to select students for merits other than test scores rather than just trying to advance in rankings. English teachers who instruct only to the test urge students to produce long, wordy missives rather than quality essays.
With the removal of the SAT, there may be a brighter future for economically disadvantaged students and minorities, and for education itself.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Our Essay Contest Taught Us About One Direction's Many Devoted Fans

WEST HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – Never underestimate the passion of a One Direction fan, we learned, when we established an essay contest with a prize of two tickets to the band’s sold out show at Mohegan Sun.
The Mohegan Tribe generously gave YJI tickets in the luxury skybox – complete with a fancy dinner reception for the November 30 sold out show – and we decided it would be fun to give a couple away to a really deserving fan.
(We still have some tickets to sell, so call us at (860) 655-8188 or email to find out more about that.)
But back to the 1D fans and the wonderful essays they wrote in hopes of winning tickets.
We learned that there are a LOT of deserving fans. We received entries from almost 400 people from all around the United States as well as Canada and Argentina.
We read them all and put careful thought into which one should win.
Many wrote that their birthdays were on the day of the concert, or near to it, and that winning would be a perfect way to celebrate. We wish we could send you all tickets inside a birthday card!
Quite a few people wrote to ask for the tickets not for themselves, but for their sister, cousin, or friend. Some of those came from sisters, but a few good-hearted brothers out there were trying to win for their sisters, which we found really terrific. Those people, though, have the best prize of all: a loving brother, sister, cousin or friend who is looking out for them. Still, we wish we could send tickets to all of them, too.

Simone Tucker, 17, 
of Hartford, Connecticut,
won the essay contest
and the two tickets to
the One Direction concert.
Lots of writers told us how 1D had changed their lives, for the better. They told painful stories of hurting themselves or feeling bad about themselves until they found happiness in the music of One Direction. Knowing they had possibly saved lives made us have a lot more appreciation for the band.
We’re glad music brought salvation to all of those fans who had been hurting, and we wish we could have sent tickets to each of them so they could experience the band in concert.
Lots and lots of essay writers proclaimed themselves the band’s number one fan and a few said they had every expectation of one day marrying a band member. All we can say is that the band is very lucky to have such a passionate group of fans.
Quite a few said they couldn’t afford to buy tickets and feared they’d never have the chance again.
We’d have loved to been able to give all those writers some tickets, too.
But we could only give away one pair of tickets, and it was really hard to choose who would get them.
We looked for a well-written piece of prose that followed the rules of the contest, which asked for 250 words or less and specified that the writer had to be aged 21 or under.
While most entries came from Connecticut and neighboring states of New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, we also got entries from Texas, Florida, California, Oregon, Washington, Tennessee, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa and South Dakota.
The fans have been vocal in their comments about the contest. There was quite a bit of interest in the announcement of the winner, and several were disappointed that we delayed that for a day. Sorry, but we couldn’t help that.
Many, we were happy to see, celebrated the contest’s winner, congratulating her and wishing her a great time.
Others have been critical of the winning essay – even before it was posted. That was disappointing.
Simone Tucker, the 17-year-old music student who won the contest, is a deserving winner. Her essay was well written and while it noted that she and others couldn’t afford to buy tickets, it wasn’t seeking pity. Rather, her piece was filled with gratitude for just the chance to try to win. Read it here and you will see for yourself.

Contest winner Simone Tucker with Youth Journalism International
 co-founders Jackie Majerus and Steve Collins
You can see the local NBC Connecticut television station’s story about Simone here.
We liked Simone’s spirit, that “attitude of gratitude,” especially at this time of year, when so many Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, and wanted to reward her with the tickets.
After the concert, she promises to reward all of you with her review of the show, which will be published on this blog. We’re confident she can convey the excitement of the night.
We’re grateful to everyone who took the time to enter the contest and hope you’ll continue to check in with YJI and find even more things to spark your interest.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Simone Tucker's Winning 1D Essay
The tickets above are the ones Simone Tucker won for next Friday's One Direction show at Mohegan Sun. Youth Journalism International still has tickets for sale, so contact us if you are interested at (860) 655-8188 or write to

By Simone Tucker
Junior Reporter
HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – It is incredible to know that there are people out there in the world who are trying to help others. The reason why I say this is because nowadays, it is really hard for families to survive financially.
Money is a huge deal in our generation today. I am being raised by a single mom, and although we both work our butts off, it’s still quite difficult to afford luxury expenses such as concert tickets, vacations, or other delightful adventures that are available.
I myself am a huge One Direction fan. I think their music is wonderful and they offer such brilliant meaning through their lyrics.
My mom was actually the first one who showed me their hit “What Makes You Beautiful,” when it came out on YouTube. I fell in love with them instantly.  Before you know it, I’d learned every word to their songs and every chord so that I could play it on piano.
Let’s just say, I am quite the fan.
Even though there is a huge number of girls who are dying to see One Direction in the luxury skybox at Mohegan Sun and a limited chance for me to see those amazing boys perform, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to just try to win these tickets.
Thank you so much for allowing myself and other families who can’t afford these tickets to at least try and win them somehow.

Youth Journalism International still has some tickets to the Nov. 30 sold out One Direction Show at Mohegan Sun available for purchase. If you are interested, call (860) 655-8188 or write to

Hartford Teen Wins Tickets To One Direction
Simone Tucker, 17, of Hartford, reacts when she learns
she's the winner of two luxury skybox tickets to see
One Direction at Mohegan Sun through Youth Journalism
International's essay contest.

HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – An “attitude of gratitude” won a 17-year-old Hartford girl two tickets to her dream concert – a performance by the hot British boy band One Direction next week at Mohegan Sun.
Simone Tucker won Youth Journalism International’s essay contest Wednesday, capturing the coveted tickets in a fierce competition that drew about 400 entries from devoted young fans in 18 states, Canada and even Argentina.
“There were so many wonderful entries that it was difficult to choose one winner, but Simone impressed the judges with her heartfelt and well written essay,” said Jackie Majerus, Executive Director of Youth Journalism International.
In her writing, Tucker, the only child of a single mother, addressed her family’s economic struggles, saying it is “quite difficult” to afford luxuries like concert tickets. Tucker also expressed appreciation to Youth Journalism International for offering her and others “the opportunity to just try to win” tickets they could never buy.
Steve Collins, board president at Youth Journalism International, said the educational non-profit organization is grateful to the Mohegan Tribe for its generous gift of luxury skybox tickets.
The Connecticut-based Youth Journalism International is selling the tickets in support of its work with young writers, artists and photographers around the globe.
“It’s not too late for One Direction fans who want to see the show,” said Collins. “We still have some tickets available.”
Danielle Ouimet, a YJI alum and Ambassador, helped judge the contest. She said Tucker’s “honest and realness came through” in her essay.
What impressed me about Simone's essay was that she didn't try too hard,” said Ouimet, who is also an avid One Direction fan. “It was easy to see she was a genuine fan who would appreciate the experience.” 
Tucker, a senior at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, loves music. In addition to describing herself as a “huge” fan of One Direction, she is a classical pianist who hopes to study music at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford next year.
“This is crazy,” she said, after classmates cheered her victory in a school assembly Wednesday. “This is too much.”
Youth Journalism International published Tucker’s essay on its website,, and on its blog, Information about One Direction tickets is posted on both sites.
As part of the prize, Tucker will be Youth Journalism International’s official reviewer for the One Direction show next week.
For more information about Youth Journalism International or for One Direction tickets, contact YJI’s executive director, Jackie Majerus, at (860) 523-9632 or (860) 655-8188 or write to

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Take Me Home ... To See One Direction

View from the sky box at Mohegan Sun.
WEST HARTFORD, Connecticut – Don't miss out on a rare opportunity to see the super hot band One Direction at Mohegan Sun this month from the best seats in the house.
Youth Journalism International, a Connecticut-based, educational non-profit organization, has a limited number of tickets available to the public for the band’s sold-out performance on November 30.
"There's been a lot of interest in these tickets," said Steve Collins, president of YJI's board of directors. "So if you want to go -- and help out a great Connecticut charity at the same time -- let us know soon. Tickets are going fast!"
The sky box tickets were made available to YJI by The Mohegan Tribe, which has been a great supporter of both the free press and YJI, which is based in West Hartford.
There will be food in the sky box!
Tickets are available for a $375 donation for each one to Youth Journalism International, a 501 (c)(3) public charity. Most of the donation would be tax-deductible.
Because there are a limited number available, tickets through this fundraiser are on a first-come, first-served basis.
For tickets, contact Youth Journalism International at (860) 523-9632 or by email at
Based in West Hartford, Youth Journalism International began training young writers, artists and photographers in 1994. Student work is published online at and at

Sky box seats at Mohegan Sun.

Monday, November 12, 2012

One Direction Contest Attracts Many Entries

We're getting dozens of entries for our new contest that will give away a pair of luxury sky box concert tickets for One Direction's Nov. 30th show at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Many of them are heart-wrenching.
Others give a real glimpse into why this British boy band is such a hot commodity. One girl, for example, wrote that its hit song "What Makes You Beautiful" convinced her she was not "the ugly duckling" she thought she was before. She cried for days when tickets sold out before she could buy one.
Others are pleading for tickets for their daughter, their sister, their friend, their cousin and so on. Some of their tales pull at the heartstrings.
We only have one pair to give away but we do have other tickets that are being sold to help keep Youth Journalism International growing and getting better. They are $375 each, with $300 of that cost a tax-deductible donation to YJI and the rest covering the ticket price.
We thought we'd ask if anybody who has the means but not the desire to see One Direction would like to buy any tickets to add to the giveaway. It would be an entirely tax-deductible contribution and sure to make some deserving young people very happy.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Vote On Facebook, Help YJI Win $1,000

Youth Journalism International Executive Director, Jackie Majerus, is in a contest on facebook and needs some help.
A YJI alum nominated Jackie in the "mompreneur" category of the contest, which is sponsored by a children's clothing company. She is competing with two other mothers to win a $1,000 charitable donation. Of course, Jackie's donation would go to YJI, so a vote for Jackie is a vote for YJI.

Jackie is currently in the lead, but the race is close, so please take two minutes to follow this link to the page. You'll have to "like" their page (you can unlike it later if you wish) before you vote. To vote, be sure to click on the "VOTE" button shown circled in red in the picture above.

It is only possible to vote once, but you can ask your friends and family to vote, too, and votes can come from anywhere on Earth, just like YJI students do.

Please vote if you are on Facebook. YJI needs the prize money and voting is free and simple. Make a party of it and invite your friends, all in support of young writers, photographers and reporters worldwide. THANK YOU!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: A Tree Falls In Brooklyn

Youth Journalism International reporter Emma Bally took these photos last week on South Portland and Dekalb near Brooklyn Tech High School in Brooklyn, New York, where trees had fallen on cars after Hurricane Sandy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Voting Is The Key To A Better World

YJI's Jessica Elsayed, after casting her first vote after the Egyptian revolution.

Across the United States today, people are heading to the polls to cast their ballots for president and other elected officials, part of a tradition of democracy stretching back well over two centuries.
That democracy is the key to the freedom that allows Youth Journalism International to flourish and the hope for genuine liberty in every land. When people pick their own leaders, the world becomes a better, more peaceful place for everyone.
Follow these links for a few of YJI's stories about voting over the years:

Voting in Uganda. YJI Photo by Bwette Daniel Gilbert

Monday, November 5, 2012

Win One Direction Concert Tickets? Yes!

WEST HARTFORD -- Youth Journalism International, a Connecticut nonprofit, has a great opportunity for fans of the hot British boy band One Direction.
Anyone who is 21 or younger may enter by writing, in 250 words or less, why you should be picked to win two luxury skybox tickets for the band’s sold out show Friday, Nov. 30 at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The winning entry will also be published by Youth Journalism International – and the winner will get to write YJI’s official review of the show, too!
To enter, just email your entry to along with your name, age, address and phone number. Put “1D contest entry” in the subject line. Entries must be received by midnight on Sunday, Nov. 18 to qualify. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at The prize does not include transportation to the concert.
Thanks to the generosity of the Mohegan Tribal Council and its commitment to young people and a free press, Youth Journalism International also has One Direction sky box tickets available for purchase.
Proceeds benefit Connecticut-based Youth Journalism International, a 501(c)(3) educational public charity that is working to train the next generation of journalists. Most of the ticket price is tax-deductible. Tickets are on a first-come, first-served basis. To reserve yours, call (860) 655-8188 or write to
Youth Journalism International’s students’ work has been featured by The Huffington Post, The Mash in Chicago, National Geographic, PBS NewsHour Extra, The Tattoo teen newspaper, Radio Pacifica, Connecticut Public Radio and other news organizations.
For more information, contact Jackie Majerus, YJI’s executive director, or Steve Collins, YJI’s president, at (860) 523-9632 or

Contest Recognizes Best In Teen Journalism

WEST HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – Youth Journalism International, a Connecticut-based nonprofit, is encouraging talented teenage journalists to enter its annual contest honoring the best young reporters, photographers and cartoonists around the world.
The contest, the largest worldwide, showcases the best journalism in English by young people.
Contest trophies from 2010 contest
“Anyone who thinks journalism is dead isn’t paying attention to the great work that young reporters and writers are doing every day, all over the world,” said Steve Collins, Youth Journalism International’s president.
Winners in major categories receive crystal trophies and other prize winners receive custom-made certificates.
There are a number of categories for entries, including Student Journalist of the Year, the Courage in Journalism award, Journalism Educator of the Year, The Jacinta Marie Bunnell Award for Commentary and The Frank Keegan “Take No Prisoners” Award for News.
“This year, we’re adding two new categories to give special attention to the wonderful multimedia work that young journalists are producing. Both multimedia news and features will have a chance now to stand out,” said Jackie Majerus, executive director at YJI.
Entries, which must be in English and published between Jan. 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2012, are due no later than 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Friday, February 8, 2013. Awards will be handed out in May. Only work by non-professionals – those who are not paid -- is allowed.
Details on how to enter the contest are available under the Contests link at the top of Youth Journalism International’s website at
In a bid to reduce paperwork and ease the administrative hassle, entries can be done entirely online by filling out a form on YJI’s website and submitting work via email.
A complete list of the winners from the past several years is also available on the website.
Youth Journalism International is a recognized 501(c)(3) public educational charity by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. A non-governmental organization, YJI depends on donations from supporters to continue its important work training the next generation of journalists.
Its students’ work has been featured by The Huffington Post, The Mash in Chicago, National Geographic, PBS NewsHour Extra, The Tattoo teen newspaper, Radio Pacifica, Connecticut Public Radio and other news organizations.
For more information, contact Jackie Majerus, YJI’s executive director, or Steve Collins, YJI’s president, at (860) 523-9632 or