Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thanks For Groupon Support

We're grateful to friends and supporters who helped make our Groupon fundraiser last week a success.
The New York City area Groupon challenge required that at least 60 people give at least 10 apiece to help Youth Journalism International, a charity drive promoted by Groupon's wonderful G Team initiative that uses the company's clout to bring worthy nonprofits to the public's attention.
We had 74 donors in the end, half of them from Bristol and West Hartford in Connecticut, two cities where YJI has deep roots. We know how much we owe each community.
We also know that our alumni and friends elsewhere chipped in to make sure the Big Apple wouldn't let us down. Thank you to all.
Unfortunately, we don't get a breakdown of who gave, but we obviously know many of the donors.
We feel lucky to have so many generous people on our side, including Groupon itself.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bazaar Adds Richness To Ramadan

The market in Shadman, Lahore, Pakistan
Story and Photos by Arooj Khalid
Junior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – The Ramadan bazaar is full of life, with people gathering to buy and sell a wide range of foods during the holy month.
Considering the almost pitiable condition of the middle and lower class families of
Punjab, the government here has set up cheap Ramadan bazaars around the province.   
These are markets that sell goods like fruit, vegetables, meat, drinks, oil and other things of good quality, but at low prices.
Due to the present economic condition of the whole country, the poor, of course, cannot afford much.
During Ramadan, every Muslim tries his best to arrange tasty and gourmet meals for the iftar, the sunset meal that breaks the fast, for himself and his family.
This step of the government makes it very easy for everyone – poor or rich – to have a good iftar after the long and hot day of fasting.
There are stalls for almost everything anyone can think of. Sugar, flour, fruit, vegetables, soft drinks, juices, meat, spices, oil and more can be easily obtained by the public.
The government is praised for this by all the people.
Soft drinks and juice
The bazaars are well maintained. The system of cleanliness and drainage in case of rain – something that is quite likely to happen every day due to the monsoons – is perfect.
Although these arrangements have been made so that no one has any need to complain, a committee has even been set up to listen to people who have complaints.
The only problem the public might face, at some times, is traffic. The district government solved that, too, by not allowing vehicles to enter the market, and giving them an alternate way to go.
Buying and selling
This way, the traffic does not block the bazaar, people can shop easily, and the people driving in traffic also face no difficulty.
Ramadan in Lahore is even more enjoyable because of the wonderful bazaar.

Here are more pictures are from the market in Shadman, Lahore, Pakistan, all taken by Arooj Khalid:

Monday, August 29, 2011

YJI Ambassador Journeys To Jamaica

Photo courtesy of Amanda Killian
Here's Youth Journalism International Ambassador Joe Killian, a longtime YJI alum, getting the word out at Dunns River Falls national park in Jamaica about our wonderful organization. Sometimes, when you believe in something, like Joe believes in YJI, you go to the ends of the Earth, enduring hardships like this, to promote it. Thanks, Joe, for taking one for the team.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene Comes To Brooklyn

By Emma Bally
BROOKLYN, New York -- From afar, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Clinton Hill appears to be a quiet, sleepy town.
The only clues that a hurricane had just shaken this community were branches and the many leaves scattered on the concrete sidewalk.
Afternoon had just arrived and the people of Clinton Hill were recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.In the early morning hours of August 28, Irene had come to Brooklyn.
Dekalb Avenue is a place filled with diverse food options, playgrounds, and neighbors looking for a diversion from everyday apartment life.
On this day, pedestrians could not help but notice a medium-sized tree that had fallen on a car.
A tree on top of a car in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
Photo: Emma Bally/

"I'm sad for the block. It was a great tree," said Anna Reeve, a schoolteacher in Manhattan.Many other Brooklyn residents and visitors gathered around the premises where the tree stood. Dozens of people took out their cameras, eager to catch a bit of Irene.

Two streets down from where the tree fell, a popular playground for neighborhood parents and children was slightly affected by Hurricane Irene. The area around the sprinkler was flooded. Young children in rain boots were splashing in the water.

Deepak Jain with his daughter near the flooded sprinkler.
Photo: Emma Bally/

Deepak Jain, a worker for a software company and an inhabitant of Clinton Hill was sitting on a bench trying to coax his daughter to sleep. Jain explained that his daughter had no idea what was going on, but, he said, “She was restless ‘cause she wanted to go outside.”

Jain stressed the fact that a lot of preparation had to be done before Irene came to Clinton Hill.
“We, uh stocked up on food, water, batteries, flashlights, and charcoal for the barbeque,” he said.
Across the street on Willoughby, live Matt and Naureen Fink. Matt is a banker, while Naureen works as a policy analyst.
“Oblivious,” Matt Fink said when asked what their two young children thought of the storm.
In the Fink’s apartment, they had a few minor leaks, but their major problem was the elevator. Both had stopped working. Matt Fink said that he was “panting and sweating,” after walking up 12 flights of stairs.
Naureen Fink has not left the apartment since the elevator broke down. With a hip injury and two young children to carry, it is too painful for her to walk up so many stairs.
After the storm, people swarmed into local restaurants such as Bagel World and Mega Bites.
One place on Myrtle Avenue only had a few customers. Falafel House, a local Middle Eastern restaurant, was open until 8 p.m. the night before Irene hit and opened at 10:30 a.m. the next morning.
When asked how Irene affected his business, owner Omar Lahouma. Lahouma said, “There is no people around.”

Omar Lahouma behind the counter. (Photo: Emma Bally)

He said everyone seemed to go to the supermarkets, instead of his restaurant. “I didn’t even do delivery,” he explained.
Despite the day's negative aspects, New York City inhabitants could have been exposed to much worse.
Since Naureen Fink grew up in Bangladesh, she experienced weather issues like this more often. She said she was worried about how vulnerable New York could be to a storm due to its dependence on electricity.
“It’s scary to think of what could have been,” she said.

Hurricane Hits New Jersey Lightly

Flooded road in New Jersey.Photo: Gokce Yurekli 
Downed tree in New JerseyPhoto: Gokce Yurekli
By Gokce Yurekli
NEWARK, New Jersey, U.S.A. -- The rain from Hurricane Irene has subsided tremendously in New Jersey, leaving behind only minor damage in most areas.
My family and I weathered the storm in our house, where the electricity went out about midnight while the rain continued until early morning.
This morning, we left the house to check out our neighborhood.
Several shops were left underwater and the lake near my house flooded.
Road crews are out picking up branches and fallen limbs from the main street in town.
Hurricane Irene came ashore in North Carolina Friday and moved north through New England and eastern Canada on Sunday and Monday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Parkour Offers Dizzying Challenges

Ashraf Abd-El Gabar

By Yasser Alaa

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – Parkour is more than a sport.
It’s the art of movement.
Moustafa Elasal 
Ashraf Abd-El Gabar, a 20-year-old engineering student, said that before he began parkour training two years ago, “I was weak, thin and lazy.”
But he’s not anymore.
“I became a new person,” he said. “I’m sure that any youth’s life will be easier with parkour. I really love parkour.”
Parkour, developed in France a century ago, is a way of getting past obstacles using acrobatics to move with efficiency and speed. It rewards athleticism, but also the ability to analyze possible routes quickly.
Ashraf Abd-El Gabar
Parker s is so much a part of Moustafa Elasal’s life that he can’t imagine living without it.
A 20-year-old student, he said that parkour “made me break the fear and overcome my phobia of high places.”
He said he started off by watching videos and practicing by himself, then began training with a parkour team until he finally decided he could do it on his own.
Ahmed Kandil, another 20-year-old engineering student, said he began playing parkour in 2007 after competing in many sports.
“At that moment, I felt that I found what I was searching for,” Kandil said.
He said parkour helped him learn to think effectively and to learn “a new way of overcoming obstacles and solving problems.”

Ahmed Kandil
All three parkour players 

Ashraf Abd-El Gabar

An Earthquake Shakes The Jersey Shore

By Emma Bally
Junior reporter

ASBURY PARK, N.J. – What started as some overheard gossip from nearby beach sitters, turned into my knowledge of one of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history on the East Coast.

It was a lazy beach day at Asbury Park where we were vacationing with my dad’s side of the family -- but wait; maybe I am getting ahead of myself here.

I was shivering in a beach chair at about 1:00 in the afternoon. Having just exited the ocean, I was cold and determined not to go back in the freezing, lifeless water. I watched my father and his 83-year-old father playing like children in the vast ocean. I suppose that a miniscule part of me was jealous, but I was mostly contemplating how to reach a magazine without the towel slipping to expose my goose bumped arms.

Since this is simply writing on paper, as apposed to life in action, I will fast-forward 45 minutes.

At about 1:45, I got up, with the towel still wrapped tightly around me, and walked to the restroom. There was a long line, so I had to wait until around 1:50 to finally get my turn.

When I arrived back to the beach, I began to catch curious snippets of conversation from the people around me; “I felt it,” “Shaking,” “Virginia?” Maybe I was too cold to care, but whatever the reason, I didn’t bother to inquire. Instead, I sat down to read my magazine.

About two minutes later, I was woken from my movie star magazine trance by my Nana.

“Elizabeth,” she said to my mother “Those people over there said there is an earthquake in Virginia!”

Whenever my Nana gets excited, her voice gets higher and higher. By now, she sounded like a dog whistle.

My mother, whose mother lives in a nursing home in Virginia, immediately began to panic. She grabbed the phone with extreme vigor and began to try and reach her mother.

As my mom walked around the hot sand, desperate to get a signal, I picked up bits and pieces of what I had missed while in the bathroom.

My Nana continued to fill me in on what had happened. She seemed very proud that she now finally had a story to tell. “We felt it too! My chair started going like this,” she made a shaking movement with her wrist “I thought a big truck had gone by! Those people over there said there was an earthquake,”

Without waiting for Nana to continue, I ran over to “those people over there.”

“Was there really an earthquake in Virginia?” I blurted out.

“That’s what the news is saying,” said a middle-aged woman with a dramatic beach tan.

Her pale, adolescent son was on his phone trying to search for more information. Suddenly, he jumped up and began talking so fast, I could only retrieve bits of what he was saying; “Evacuating…Pentagon…White House…Capitol Building…New York…leaving building…earthquake…near Charlottesville.” He finally sat down looking like he had just run a marathon.

“I got it! My radio is working,” shouted a woman nearby. Everyone crowded around to see if his or her loved ones were safe.

I looked around the scene with pride. For me, this was more than an earthquake; this was a strong bond with total strangers. A bond between me, a pale hyper boy, his beach tanned mother, and the woman with the radio. I may never know their names, but I know this for sure, that bond can never be broken.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Women Deserve 'Half The Sky'

By Rachel Glogowski and Stefan Koski
Associate Editors
HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Although slavery in the traditional sense of the term was banished from modern American society, journalist Sheryl WuDunn says we have a long way to go in order to defeat similar “evil traditions” across the globe.
“Enslavement of girls and women is just so oppressive,” said WuDunn, who together with her husband, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, travelled China as foreign correspondents.
WuDunn and Kristof were keynote speakers at a Harriet Beecher Stowe Center event this summer that focused on women’s rights and social change.
WuDunn and Kristof, the first married couple to win the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre for The New York Times, won the inaugural Stowe Prize for their book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which examines the status of women in various developing countries.
Stowe Center forum on 'Inspiring Action'Stefan Koski/YJI

The panel discussion, “Inspiring Action: Real Stories of Social Change” and the book prize, awarded by the Stowe Center, marked this year’s 200th anniversary of Stowe’s birth.
Sheryl WuDunnPhoto provided.
The panelists, who included founders of nonprofit organizations and California Congresswoman Laura Richardson, focused on women’s rights as the contemporary version of the slavery issue that plagued Stowe years ago when she penned Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
WuDunn said what she and Kristof found in China was evidence of its “evil traditions,” including infanticide and abortion of female babies, resulting in approximately 300 million missing baby girls.
But when they travelled elsewhere in Asia and Africa, they discovered widespread discrimination against women that took on many forms, including sex trafficking.
Kristof described how a trip to Cambodia highlighted the importance of reporting on and combating human trafficking.
There he heard stories of girls being kidnapped and sold for their virginity. In one case, a mother spent six months searching for her young daughter who was kidnapped and sold into a brothel, only to discover that she could not afford to buy her freedom.
For him and WuDunn, human trafficking is one of the most egregious affronts on human rights across the globe.
“Human traffickers are business people,” said WuDunn. “They’re in it for the money.”
Nicholas Kristof
Stefan Koski/YJI
Kristof said Americans tend to dismiss human trafficking as happening in other parts of the world but said it is more prevalent than people might think.
It needs to be stopped, Kristof said, “whether it’s happening in Calcutta, India or Hartford, Connecticut.”
People aspiring to make a difference do not need to travel to Africa or Asia because there are “lots of atrocities happening in the U.S,” WuDunn added.
“One of the most important escalators out of poverty is education,” said Kristof, adding that with recent budget cuts in spending across the U.S., “We’re essentially shutting down or cutting that escalator.”
Shannon McNamara, who founded the non-profit organization SHARE when she was 15, echoed Kristof’s call to increased education.
The goal of SHARE, which stands for Shannon’s Afterschool Reading Exchange, is to educate and empower girls in the poorest areas of Africa by funding electricity in four schools, supplying libraries with over 33,000 books and supporting after-school reading programs.
“We wanted to help create problem-solvers,” McNamara said.
But one of the biggest obstacles McNamara faced in implementing her programs was getting permission from the girls’ parents to allow them to attend school in countries where traditionally only males are educated and where only 5 percent of girls graduate from high school.
McNamara is working hard to change these trends.
“Empowerment is just as important as education,” she said.
Kristof and WuDunn also spoke of allowing women to work as an important step to empowering an entire community.
"When you make society whole, you create this great spiral of opportunity," Kristof said. He argued that failing to allow women equal employment opportunities is nonsensical because increasing the financial status of women in a community benefits that entire community.
“To the extent they’re able to empower other people, they’re able to empower themselves,” he said.
As Kristof said, the ultimate goal is to “give girls the opportunity to own their half of the sky.”

Here's a link to the Half the Sky website.

Thanks, Groupon, For Helping YJI

Groupon's G-Team in the New York City region is providing a boost to Youth Journalism International this week.
The charitable effort by Groupon provides a free push to get people to donate to worthy charities over a three-day challenge period. This week, they picked YJI.
So beginning on Tuesday, we had three days to get at least 60 people to donate at least $10 in order for the "deal" to be "on" so that YJI would get any funding from the effort. They have to use this link.
So far, thanks to many donors known and unknown to us, we have managed to come up with 54 of the 60 required. That's pretty good, though not quite enough yet.
What's really nice about this is that Groupon, a pretty big player in the world of the web, agreed to feature our little Connecticut-based charity this week and that so many have stepped up to the plate to help us.
Groupon gives us every penny the fundraising challenge takes in, which is a rarity online, and helped spread the word about how we're giving a voice to students across the globe. It's a wonderful thing and we are truly grateful for the honor.
We are also humbled that so many people are willing to lend us a hand. We know YJI does important work but we also know how hard it is for nearly everyone these days to dip into their wallets and pay for something extra. We aim, always, to honor your trust in us.
If anyone hasn't donated, the Groupon link for YJI is open until 11:59 p.m. Thursday EST. But don't wait until the end.

Meeting Jessica Elsayed In Ohio

The other day, Youth Journalism International founders Jackie Majerus and Steve Collins got the opportunity to meet Senior Reporter Jessica Elsayed for the first time.
Elsayed, who reported extensively on the Egyptian uprising from her home in Alexandria, Egypt, is starting college at Dennison University in Ohio.
It was, of course, glorious to finally lay eyes on each other.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kabul Celebrates International Youth Day

Photo courtesy of Youth In Action Association

By Edrees Kakar
Senior Reporter
KABUL, Afghanistan – Dozens of young activists gathered last week in Kabul to mark International Youth Day.
The event – organized jointly by the Youth in Action Association, Afghanistan's Deputy Ministry of Youth Affairs and the United Nations Population Fund – attracted representatives of Kabul’s many youth organizations that working on projects surrounding health, the environment, women’s rights and education.
Photo courtesy of Youth In Action Association
Kabul marked International Youth Day on Thursday at the Afghan Cultural House, just a day before the official United Nations holiday.
Event participants named volunteerism as the focus for Afghan youth in the coming year.
Speaking to the gathering at the Afghan cultural house where the event was held, Youth in Action Association President Sayed Ikram Afzali stressed the importance of volunteerism among the youth in Afghanistan, encouraging the nation’s youth to give back to their country by volunteering.
Afghan youth – estimates say they make up more than 60 percent of the population – are facing serious challenges of security, access to tertiary education, unemployment and more.
Though in the last 10 years of international involvement in Afghanistan there are explicit achievements in different sectors of life, massive efforts are still needed to build up the platform for Afghan youth so they can take charge as the future leaders of their country.
Photo courtesy of Youth In Action Association
Temor Shah Ishaqzai, the deputy minister for youth affairs, urged Afghan youth toward sensible consumption of their time.
“It is much better to work for some practical projects in celebrating youth’s day rather than organizing concerts for youth,” Ishaqzai said, adding that reinforcement of unity among the youth is fundamental to the future of the country.
The celebration drew participation from an eye-catching number of expats from Kabul-based international organizations.
It included workshops on youth advocacy and youth behavioral change in Afghanistan, booths for youth activist foundations, arts exhibition and discussions where participants shared knowledge.
Photo courtesy of Youth In Action Association
“Investing in youth, their reproductive health and gender equality can help put countries on a path to accelerated economic growth and equitable development,” said Arie Hoekman, the United Nation’s Population Fund representative to Afghanistan.
Hoekman also announced a program of small grants of up to $4,000 USD for volunteer initiatives in Afghanistan for civil society youth foundations.
Later in the event, the participants were entertained by an exciting circus show from the Afghan children’s circus.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fixing England's 'Broken Society' After Riots

By Adam Kelly
Junior Reporter
TORBAY, England – The riots in England are over but the political battle they spurred has only just begun.
Reaction is mixed to Prime Minister David Cameron’s vow today to tackle the United Kingdom’s “broken society” in the wake of last week’s riots in London and other major cities.
While people said it is clear action must be taken, they are divided on what should be done.
Some said Cameron spoke rubbish when he promised to review his government’s policies as well as speeding up his plans for improved parenting and education in an effort to change the lives of 120,000 “troubled families.”
Local grocery shop owner Pat Smith said that Cameron had a knee-jerk reaction to the riots and said that he was talking absolute nonsense.
“Cameron is listing reasons for these riots that are ridiculous,” she said. “He’s treading on dangerous ground.”
Cameron called for a “community engagement exercise” and said some groups of society have been disconnected from the rest. He pledged that the social problems would be solved.
But resident Chris Ashdown, who is semi-retired and works at a cricket club part time, agreed with Smith in calling the rioting and looting “pure opportunism.”
He said Cameron was just trying to “pin all the blame on Labor.”
Labor leader Ed Miliband said the prime minister was looking for “superficial answers” rather than targeting the problems and looking for lasting solutions.
Alice Mason, a mother of two and part-time writer, said, “No one here is condoning the riots, they all want something to be done about it, but the prime minister is just plain wrong and he couldn’t be more wrong.”
However, postman Matthew Down said that Cameron was “telling the complete truth.”
He said that these social problems have been “allowed to grow for too long” and that rioters should have their benefits taken away.
An online petition signed by more than 100,000 people calling for the benefits of rioters to be taken away is likely to be debated by Parliament.
A week after the riots the led to the destruction of thousands of businesses and homes, Cameron also pledged a war on gangs.
The riots began after a peaceful protest against the fatal shooting of a Tottenham resident, Mark Duggan, was hijacked by rioters who clashed with police, set buildings on fire and looted many businesses.
There have now been over 2,000 riot-related arrests and magistrate courts are still sitting on weekends and through the night to process more suspects.
Sorting out the many issues surrounding the riots could create a political headache for all of the competing parties and for the country as a whole.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shoot Me! Perils Of Senior Photographs

From Youth Journalism International's archives, here's a 2004 journal by Katie Jordan, who's now a volunteer editor with YJI:

I hate having my picture taken.

I cringe when I hear a photographer say, “Okay, now SMILE!” Of course, that cringing expression always makes for a lovely shot.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. But even if I’m not alone in how I feel about having my photo taken, the fact is that when you’re sitting there on some uncomfortable stool with the evil, unblinking black eye of a camera focused on you, you are alone. Well, except for the photographer.

But let’s face it, that’s not always a comfort.

“Turn your head a little. No, the other way! Farther. No, too far! Let me do it.”

Oh, yeah – nothing puts me in the right frame of mind to smile attractively like being frozen in an unnatural position after having some stranger’s hands all over my face.

It’s not the photographers’ fault, though, even if I would like to blame it all on them. And believe me, I would.

No, the fact is as plain as the cringe on my face: I’m just not good at being photographed.

It hasn’t always been this way.

Once, my mother entered a photo she took of me in a “Pretty Baby Contest.”

My picture won a very prestigious award: a free pizza. It was a proud moment for my family. Click here to read the rest of the story.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Upbeat Detour On The Road To Happiness

By Alma Macbride
Junior Reporter
WEST HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. - For those looking to escape from humidity while simultaneously avoiding Marvel superheroes and Death Eaters, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is the perfect summer diversion.
Easily dismissed as a repeat of the star-studded flop, “Valentine’s Day,” this film proves skeptics wrong with its charming screenplay and unexpected plot twists.
The cast, which includes The Office alum Steve Carell, Oscar-nominated Ryan Gosling, and Hollywood it-girl Emma Stone, not only rely on their notable status in the world of film, but their undeniable talent.
Gosling shines as a lothario named Jacob Walker who takes it upon himself to tutor a miserable Cal Weaver (Carell) in the ways of winning women.
To rediscover his manhood after his wife abruptly divorces him, the newly-minted bachelor frequents nightclubs to woo women.
Several one-night-stands later, Cal comes to the realization that he had been married to his soulmate all along.
This epiphany characterizes the film’s main theme that love requires never-ending devotion. Even Jacob is astonished to discover that he, too, is susceptible to “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”
In the presence of witty dialogue and down-to-earth acting, any cheesiness one would expect with such a storyline evaporates.
The inevitable warm and fuzzy feeling this film evokes remains long after leaving the theater.
Masked crusaders and wizards may have to acknowledge that this film just might be this summer’s unanticipated blockbuster.

Windows On The World: Brooklyn, New York

Emma Bally/
View of New York skyline from Brooklyn
Here is a picture from the 12th floor of a Brooklyn apartment building where Youth Journalism International's newest reporter, Emma Bally, lives. Welcome, Emma!

How You Can Help YJI

Youth Journalism International is a tiny nonprofit -- or non-governmental organization -- that is based in the United States. Formally recognized as a 501(c)(3) public educational charity, it serves as a training ground for aspiring young journalists and has created a close-knit global community of young writers who are intent on making a difference in the world.
What YJI needs more than anything is money so that we can hire professional staff that can deliver more one-on-one attention to young people and cope with a growing waiting list of students yearning to join. Students participate for free -- an important goal for us -- so we are dependent on the generosity of others.
If you can help us with a donation or by assisting us to raise funds, we would be grateful. Any donations to YJI are tax-deductible in the United States.
But if you're struggling, too, we understand.
There are plenty of other ways to lend a hand.
One is just to read the stories that YJI students write. They appear on this blog -- -- and on the organization's website,
You can also post links to those stories and websites on any blogs or sites you have or on your Facebook or other social media page. Help us find more readers and you will help us find more fans.
On Facebook, you can go to the Youth Journalism International page and just click like. It's a small thing, yes, but it also boosts our readership and the attention given to YJI. You can find it at
If you're on Twitter, you can reTweet our stuff from @yjinternational and @jackiemajerus. Every little bit helps.
Anyplace you can write about Youth Journalism International, from the op-ed page of The New York Times to your Facebook Wall, may bring us more attention. If you write something nice, so much the better!
If you've been following what YJI does, consider writing a review of Youth Journalism International on the wonderful GreatNonProfits site, which includes tons of review of charities around the world. You can find ours here.
If you want to donate money to YJI, you can send us a check or you can donate online. It appears the best place to donate online -- the one that gives us the biggest percentage of the money --is on CauseCast. That link is here.
In a week and a half, YJI will be featured on a Groupon fundraiser that requires at least 60 people to donate $10 apiece in the course of three days. If you can be one of those 60, that would be a big help. We'll post details when we have them.
If you have ideas about something you could do, let us know. We're eager to find ways to use the awesome power of our worldwide audience to help YJI flourish.
Oh, yeah, one more thing you can do? Link to this blog entry!

High School Dating Advice You Can Use

From YJI's archives:
Noel Fehden/

Everything you always wanted to know about...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ramadan, From Many Angles

Want to understand Ramadan? Youth Journalism International writers detail what it's all about.

Looking Back: 9/11 Reactions From Students

We're one month shy of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Let's take a look back at the pieces that Youth Journalism International students wrote on that horrible day:

Thousands of reasons to pay attention
Katie Jordan: We've all been told some adult or another how they felt when they heard about Pearl Harbor or Kennedy's assassination. We've heard them explain what was going through their minds, and we've seen the far away looks on their faces as they remember. (OPINION - Sept. 11, 2001)

America will rise to the challenge
Kaishi Lee: Let's face it. America's in a frenzy after another terrorist attack. Now, why, of all countries, did terrorists choose America? (OPINION - Sept. 11, 2001)

Chemistry, poetry and World War III?
Mike Nguyen: I was thinking Independence Day, of the Empire State Building collapsing in heaps of flames. Oh, wait, but this is reality. And that means people died. (OPINION - Sept. 11, 2001)

Don't choose "macho contest" now
Melissa Luna: I found out about the bombing at school and I was shocked and scared beyond belief. (OPINION - Sept. 11, 2001)

Terror hurts Muslims, too
Hila Yosafi: Guys in my class say they may not be there Thursday because they'll probably be called to fight in World War III. I so want to be with my loved ones now. (OPINION - Sept. 11, 2001)

'The Help' Is Worth Every Cent

By Katie Grosser
Senior Reporter
AKRON, Ohio, U.S.A. – “The Help,” a film adaptation of the 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett, calls itself a comedy drama.
After two and a half hours, viewers are bound to feel that this movie does not only deliver both comedy and drama, but also the opportunity for older generations to revisit their youth and young adulthood and younger generations to connect with the past.
Set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, the movie explores the relationship between the white women of the town and the black women who work their whole lives as “the help,” which is marked both by intimacy and love as well as a certain distance due to the racial lines.
Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, played by Emma Stone, is a college graduate returning to Jackson with her heart set on being a journalist, novelist or both.
She sets out to interview the maids in town in order to document their side of the story and perspective on life as “the help.”
She enlists the help of Aibileen, played by Viola Davis, a maid who has raised white children her whole life and at the same time serves as the film’s narrator.
Aibileen’s friend Minny, played by Octavia Spencer, a fellow maid who not only is a first-class cook but also a sassy employee with a secret to hide, joins the twosome.
The small project grows as tensions in Jackson rise and more and more maids come forth to tell their stories.
Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny each face their own personal difficulties on the path of telling the truth to the world.
The result of their work is a book which documents the lives of “the help” – both the bad and the good – and causes quite a stir in town upon publication.
With both laugh-out-loud as well as tear-inducing moments, “The Help” is entertaining and touching all at once.
Readers of the novel will recognize changes from the original, but the overall plot remains the same.
The excellent cast, paired with a moving story and music from the ‘60s, makes a visit to the movies worth every cent.

La Divina Haunts The Stage Again

 By Emily Couch
Junior Reporter

NEW YORK, N.Y., U.S.A. – “Master Class” is a Tony Award-winning play by Terrence McNally based on the famous master classes that opera diva Maria Callas used to give at The Juilliard School in New York.

McNally’s words combined with a magnificent performance by Tyne Daly in the lead role succeed in making Callas a tragic, if not likeable, heroine who sacrificed everything for her art.

The setting of the play, showing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, is in an unidentified auditorium and time with three hopeful opera students facing the criticism of the formidable Madame Callas (as she likes to be called).

The clever set, designed by Thomas Lynch, is quite minimalistic in comparison to most exuberant Broadway shows – using a simple piano and a few chairs.

Even when we are drawn into flashbacks at La Scala (Milan’s famous opera house), Lynch utilizes only the façade of a pillar and a red curtain – mainly relying on lighting to create the atmosphere.

Unusually, with this play, instead of creating a scene for the audience to merely observe, McNally has incorporated the audience into the story.

Callas actually addresses the audience as if they have come to watch a real master class.

At first, this may be quite disconcerting as we are used to plays being confined to the stage.

At one point, Callas demands, “Can we do something about those lights?” and you feel almost unsure whether this is scripted or a rather awkward improvisation, but you find yourself gradually warming to the style which makes the piece feel even more authentic.

Now, although Callas insists throughout, “This is not about me, pretend I’m not even here,” it is obvious that McNally intended his play to be about one woman and one woman only – Maria Callas.  The three students are inconsequential to the development of the plotline itself, acting merely as triggers to bring out Callas’ almost cruel yet tragic nature and reminiscence.

Daly, whose many credits include the Tony Award-winning musical “Gypsy” and the popular cop show “Cagney and Lacy,” succeeds marvelously in bringing La Divina to life, although she protested about taking on the role of Callas at first.

“I haven’t had a lot of glamor requirements in my career,” she told writer Henry Haun. “Have you noticed I play blue collar a lot?”

Sometimes, you almost forget that it’s not the great Diva herself who is on stage before you.

During the play, Callas has two monologues in which we are thrust back into moments in her past: her debut at La Scala in Milan, her romantic relationship with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis and her troubled relationship with her colleagues.

It is here that Daly shows the sheer quality of her acting, moving seamlessly from playing a torn Callas to a rich and crude Onassis. It almost reminds one of the Greek Pantomimes in which one actor was required to play every part perfectly.

Daly also shows the complexity of character and emotions perfectly.   We can see the conflict between Maria the woman and Callas the artist because she will constantly contradict herself. For example, she tells the students never to look at the audience.

“It should be just you and the music,” she says, yet when we see her flashback to La Scala Opera House, we see how much she craves the adulation of the audience.

At one point, Callas shouts, “I hate the word ‘Act’ – but ‘be’…”

Watching the play, it is abundantly clear that Daly isn’t playing Maria Callas – she is Maria Callas.

McNally has written Callas such that, at times, we want to both throttle her for her harshness to the students and give her the affection her life so clearly lacked.  

Scottish export Alexandra Silber (whose credits include “Woman in White” and “Fiddler on the Roof”) plays victim number one, the bubbly Sophia De Palma.

She has prepared a Bellini aria but no sooner has the music started than Callas completely tears her down, criticizing her posture, her listening and her expression.

Sophia clearly admires Callas and tries desperately to ingratiate herself to her and impress her but all she gets in return is cruelty, which eventually brings her to tears.

I felt a lot of empathy for Sophia because, as a singer, I could identify with her desire to please and succeed.

A similar scenario happens to victim number two, Sharon Graham, played by the incredible Sierra Boggess, whose credits include London’s “Love Never Dies,” Broadway’s “Little Mermaid” and “Phantom – the Las Vegas spectacular.”

However, when affable funnyman Anthony Candolino, a tenor played by Garret Sorenson, (whose opera credits include “Il Pirata” opposite Renné Flemming) sings, Callas actually allows herself to be moved by the voice and the music which leads the audience to suspect it wasn’t that the two sopranos weren’t good enough, but that Callas felt threatened by their youth and talent.

But, after the tenor, who should come back on stage? That’s right, the unsinkable Sharon Graham. She’s chosen Lady Macbeth’s aria from the letter scene, which is perfect for her fiery attitude.

Unlike Sophia, she actually stands up to Maria and has the guts to say what everyone is thinking.

“I don’t like you,” she says forcefully. “You are just jealous that we are young and still have our voices. …You want us all to lose our voices in 10 years like you! Well I won’t be like you! I hate people like you.”

Here you feel conflicted. You’re happy that Sharon has stood up to her, but knowing her past, you feel strangely sympathetic to the diva at the same time.

Although not the best place for listening to uninterrupted arias, I strongly recommend “Master Class” to all Broadway goers, especially those with a love of singing or performing themselves.

You may find you learn some interesting, sometimes cruel and inspiring ideas about the profession. 

The show even includes some funny moments.

Clinton Brandhagen plays the small yet comedic part of the disrespectful stagehand, creating a humorous contrast to the cultured Maria.

The biggest laughs come, however, when Callas herself tries to be funny.

With a tone-deaf sense of humor, her “jokes” are so completely not funny to anyone but her that they end up leaving the audience in stitches. They’re so bad that they’re good.

She accuses Manny the pianist, skillfully played by Jeremy Cohen, of not having “a look.”

A “look,” she insists, is vital to success.

“To any of you who have a look, I salute you,” she tells the audience. “To those who don’t – get one.”

Yes, Madame Callas.