Tuesday, August 30, 2016

In search of stomach flips and plenty of speed: testing coasters at Lake Compounce

Mary Majerus-Collins / youthjournalism.org
From the Ferris Wheel, riders can see the Wildcat historic wooden coaster and Phobia, the new steel ride at Lake Compounce.
By Shelby Saunders
Junior Reporter
BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. – As a seasoned roller coaster junkie, I have a need for speed and a love for the stomach-flipping drops of the nation’s biggest and best coasters. A day at Lake Compounce satisfied my adrenaline craving for the summer, so for my fellow thrill seekers, here is a roller coaster guide for the nation’s oldest amusement park.
Wildcat: As the oldest roller coaster in the park, the 1927 Wildcat is a must for any coaster enthusiast. My advice is to ride it and then get some water to fend off the inevitable headache. The first drop is smooth and exciting, but I was distracted from the rest of the thrills by bone-rattling turns and head-banging bounces. The innovation and durability of Wildcat is a feat, but it can be an uncomfortable ride for a generation spoiled by steel coasters. Jerry Brick, the park’s general manager, explained that a bumpy ride is typical of the humid summer months due to expanding wooden tracks. While Lake Compounce hoses down the coaster in attempts to cool it off, one ride on the Wildcat is all I can handle this season. A painful but respectful nod to the nearly 90 year old attraction.
Boulder Dash: Long hailed as the best wooden roller coaster in the world, Boulder Dash is a rite of passage. The hillside ride takes thrill seekers through the woods and trees that hide the upcoming drops, enhancing the stomach-flipping effects. The coaster’s many crests don’t disappoint, but on more than a few turns and speedy straightaways I felt my organs shift. Brick explained that due to the weather the ride is 15 seconds faster this August, topping 60 mph, than it was in May. Don’t get me wrong, I have a need for speed, but I would take a smooth ride over a brain-scrambler any day.
Zoomerang: Maybe I was smaller the last time I rode it. Maybe I hadn’t yet taken so many rickety budget flights across Europe. Or maybe I was spoiled after riding the new Phobia Phear Coaster. Zoomerang was short, slow, and more painful than a steel coaster should be. Also the fact that it goes both forward and backward makes choosing a seat difficult. We went for the back, agreeing that it was worth it to experience the high speeds going forward while going backward would be enough of a thrill itself, even if we were stuck in the boring and slow front car. Though I felt more stable overall than on the Wildcat and Boulder Dash, Zoomerang’s rock hard seat dug into my back. I would have gladly accepted this exchange if the coaster had been as thrilling as the others, but I didn’t have a single stomach flip. Not one. I would have been remiss if I had not gone on it, but on busy days, I suggest spending your valuable time waiting in line for Boulder Dash and Phobia instead. However, Zoomerang would be a good intro for youngsters just breaking into the roller coaster game.
Phobia Phear Coaster
Phobia: This summer Lake Compounce unveiled its Phobia Phear Coaster, hailed as the first of its kind in the northeast. The ride is a 15-story loop that reaches 65 mph during its three stomach-flipping drops. As I approached (read: ran excitedly to) the ride, the first one of the day, signs and voice recordings warned that I would soon face my biggest “phear.” Without the help of Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin from the Batman series, I wasn’t sure how the ride would achieve this. I managed to snag the last seat in the car, knowing that the back car is always the fastest. As I strapped myself in, I had a massive grin waiting for my first roller coaster ride in more than a year. My grin faded as the harnesses locked down and the shin guards dug into my legs. The ride harnesses don’t seem well suited to taller riders, but I was happy to be strapped in during the ride’s slower corkscrew before the big plunge. While it didn't play on my biggest "phears," Phobia was thrilling, smooth and a worthwhile investment. I would rank it as the park's best ride: low impact, low pain and high thrills.

Want more? Read "Phobia forces coaster fans to face their fears" from YJI Senior Reporter Mary Majerus-Collins.

And don't miss: "Please secure all loose items: a woman's guide to dressing for success and thrills" by YJI reporters Shelby Saunders, Ruth Onyirimba and Mary Majerus-Collins. 

If thrill rides aren't your thing, try: "How to have fun at the amusement park, even if you don't like rollercoasters," by YJI Senior Correspondent Kiernan Majerus-Collins.

You know what's really a thrill? Making a difference in young lives. That's what happens when you make a donation to Youth Journalism
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Please secure all loose items: A woman's guide to dressing for success and thrills

Kiernan Majerus-Collins / youthjournalism.org
Ruth Onyirimba and Shelby Saunders loved riding Down Time at Lake Compounce.
By Shelby Saunders, Mary Majerus-Collins
And Ruth Onyirimba
Youth Journalism International
BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. – A day at Lake Compounce requires planning. Be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, comfortable walking shoes, swimming gear and a bag of assorted bras.
Shelby Saunders ready to take
off on the American Flyers.
Here’s our best advice for what to wear on the park’s various attractions.

American Flyers: This fun and interactive ride allows you to control your height and speed.  Hop on with whatever undergarments you’re already wearing and choose the velocity that best allows safe and secure baggage storage.

Antique Carousel: 
Girdle up for these beautiful 19th century hand-painted horses. You can   take your pick of either a standing or a jumping horse, depending on the tightness of your corset.
Shelby Saunders
takes spin on the
Boulder Dash: This award-winning wooden coaster takes you up and along the mountain at an incredible speed. Riders beware: high impact sports bras are a must, maybe double up if you’re worried. Matching neck brace optional, but highly recommended.
Bumper Cars: The answer to this question is in the title of the ride. Even if you try to avoid the intense collisions that naturally occur with children behind the wheel, we’d still recommend at least a low impact sports bra for this bumpy ride.
C.P. Huntington Train: Tired from all the bra-switching madness? Take the scenic, convenient and, most importantly, bra-free train back to the main grounds. Certainly lower impact than walking all the way.
Mary Majerus-Collins
behind the wheel at the
Bumper Cars.
Down Time: The drop on Downtime is short but thrilling. The 185-foot drop felt much shorter at 60 mph, but after the initial stomach flip, the fall is smooth and gentle. Almost no pain, a simple bralette is recommended.
Ferris Wheel: Ferris Wheels may date back to the 1800s, but the politics need not - go ahead and free the nipple on this smooth, scenic ride.
Kiddie Coaster: If you’re wearing a bra like we are, you might be too old for this ride.

Phobia: This steel coaster lacks the more bouncy qualities of the wooden ones, without losing any of the thrill. This ride is a must for any roller coaster enthusiast. We would recommend at least some kind of upper-torso support, though the ride is so smooth that a sports bra isn’t necessary.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins / youthjournalism.org
Riding in the front seat of Phobia are Ruth Onyirimba. left, and Mary Majerus-Collins. In the rear seat are YJI's Shelby Saunders and Alan Burkholder.
Pirate Ship: This massive swing was a fun break from the whirling coasters.  Lake Compounce claims you will be “tossed like a ship in a perfect storm,” but our loose items were secure.  No bra necessary.
The Wave Swinger: The swingset of your wildest childhood dreams has become a reality. Catch a nice breeze and free the nipple on this smooth ride.
Thunder N’ Lightning: This gravity-defying experience will take you up into the clouds. If you chose to ride it once or twice, a regular bra will suffice. But if you want to ride it four times in a row like we did, then a low impact sports bra is ideal.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins / youthjournalism.org
Riding Thunder 'N Lightning are, at left, YJI reporters Alan Burkholder, Shelby Saunders and Mary Majerus-Collins.
Trolley: This antique 1911 trolley offers a comfortable, smooth ride to the Thunder Rapids and Sky Ride. Coincidentally, 1911 was also the year Californian women won the right to vote. Make like a second-wave feminist and burn that bra.
Waterpark: We recommend a bathing suit for all water-related rides, and it wouldn’t hurt to opt for a super-supportive one.
Wildcat: Strap in tight for the park’s 1927 wooden rollercoaster, and we guarantee your journey will be historic. For those who have not yet experienced it, we recommend a high impact sports bra. This ride doesn’t have the smooth contours of the newer rollercoasters, making it a very bumpy ride.
Zoomerang: Taking the rider both forward and backward along a steel track, Zoomerang offers a thrilling rollercoaster experience. However, it was a bit jiggly, so we would recommend a low impact sports bra.
Disclaimer: Lake Compounce requires a shirt and shoes to be worn everywhere in the park with the exception of Crocodile Cove, where a swimsuit may be worn instead.

Want more? Read "Phobia forces coaster fans to face their fears" from YJI Senior Reporter Mary Majerus-Collins.

And don't miss "In search of stomach flips and plenty of speed: testing coasters at Lake Compounce" by YJI reporter Shelby Saunders.

If thrill rides aren't your thing, try"How to have fun at the amusement park, even if you don't like rollercoasters," by YJI Senior Correspondent Kiernan Majerus-Collins.

No matter what your underwear choice, you can support young journalists through your tax-deductible contribution to this non-profit educational charity. Thanks!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Phobia forces coaster fans to face their fears

The newest rollercoaster at Lake Compounce is Phobia, a 15-story steel ride.

By Mary Majerus-Collins
Senior Reporter
BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Phobia, the newest and fastest rollercoaster at Lake Compounce, thrills parkgoers and steps up the park’s rollercoaster game big time.
Reaching speeds upwards of 65 mph, Phobia races ahead of the park’s other steel coaster, Zoomerang.
In contrast with the more intense over-the-shoulder-style seats on Zoomerang, the seats on Phobia may seem mild with only a lap guard, but don’t be fooled. The park’s newest addition is equally if not more thrilling than its older counterpart.
Alan Burkholder / youthjournalism.org
Signs outside of Phobia urge
riders to face their fears - and
instruct them how to sit safely.
The coaster propels riders 150 feet upwards using a magnet system to store the energy created by the coaster, according to Jerry Brick, the park’s general manager.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins / youthjournalism.org
YJI students Alan Burkholder and Mary 

Majerus-Collins in Phobia's front car.
This new system is able to dramatically reduce the total energy used by the coaster through reusing the kinetic energy it generates on its upward ascent, he said.
At the top of its 15-story journey, Phobia gives thrill-seekers a gorgeous view of the park, lake and surrounding wooded hills where the wooden coaster Boulder Dash makes its run. From the top, it is possible to see the park’s historic wooden coaster, the Wildcat, and other attractions such as DownTime and multiple waterslides as well as more chill rides like the Giant Wheel and the Wave Swinger.
Then, a series of upside-down turns and a stomach-flipping drop interrupt the brief second of calm at the top.
In a trip that lasts about a minute, Phobia switches directions three times, keeping visitors on their toes all the while. 

Watch the video below to hear further explanation from Lake Compounce General Manager Jerry Brick about how Phobia saves energy:

Want more? Read "Please secure all loose items: a woman's guide to dressing for success and thrills" by YJI reporters Shelby Saunders, Mary Majerus-Collins and Ruth Onyirimba.

And don't miss "In search of stomach flips and plenty of speed: testing coasters at Lake Compounce" by YJI reporter Shelby Saunders.

If thrill rides aren't your thing, try"How to have fun at the amusement park, even if you don't like rollercoasters," by YJI Senior Correspondent Kiernan Majerus-Collins.

Your tax-deductible gifts keep students on track and this educational non-profit humming like a well maintained rollercoaster. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Prizewinning photojournalists tell how work can stand out in a sea of instant images

At the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in Grapevine, Texas this summer, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers shared insights. From left, moderator Jeff Whittington, Carol Guzy, Nikki Kahn, Beatriz Terrazas and Smiley Pool. On the screen behind them is one of Guzy's photographs from Kosovo, which won the Pulitzer Prize.
By Garret Reich
GRAPEVINE, Texas, U.S.A. – It is a common saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. And it is – regardless of what language you speak, the religion you take faith in, or the part of the world you reside.
At the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference outside of Dallas, Texas, four Pulitzer Prize winners spoke about their international experiences with photojournalism and offered advice to fellow photographers.
The four panelists – Smiley Pool, Nikki Kahn, and freelancers Carol Guzy and Beatriz Terrazas – began by taking questions from moderator Jeff Whittington, a Texas radio journalist for KERA News.
Whittington initiated the conversation by highlighting one of the prominent issues for modern photojournalists: the ease in which any person with a smartphone can take high-quality pictures.
The panelists agreed that rampant photo-taking makes it more difficult for qualified photographers to get credit for their work.
Living in a world with free social media apps like Instagram, teenagers and adults alike have the opportunity to post pictures as quickly as they take them.
“We are in this place where people are using images to tell a story about themselves,” Pool said, instead of using photography as a means of showing the world a different perspective.
But professional photojournalists, said Pool, “provide context and a true story with meaning.”
The prizewinners told the stories behind their award-winning photos.
Guzy, a four-time Pulitzer winner, won in the Features category in 2000 for work she did in Kosovo as a photographer for The Washington Post.
After traveling for two months with refugee families, Guzy and fellow Post photographer Michael Williamson watched one family pass 2-year-old Agim Shala into the hands of his grandparents on the opposite side of a barbed wire fence, marking a border between countries the families were unable to cross.
“My instincts said to stand next to this particular family,” Guzy said, “for no other reason than my gut said that something was going to happen here.”
Kahn won her first Pulitzer with Guzy and their fellow Washington Post photographer Ricky Carioti in 2010. The team documented earthquake damage in Haiti, including some up close portraits of people.
Kahn and her team made the award-winning image of one elderly woman leaning her head against a tree. The old woman’s body covered in wrinkles, Kahn captured the helpless feelings of a woman who had witnessed a lifetime of disasters.
Pool won a Pulitzer in 2006 for a photo he made from a helicopter of devastation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the city. Flying 500 feet overhead, Pool saw people on the roofs of buildings next to messages begging assistance from rescue squads.
Pool caught one of his photos looking down at a man behind one of these which read, “The Water is Rising Pleas” and next to another that read, “HELP!”
YJI reporters Garret Reich and Mugdha Gurram interview Carol Guzy, a four-time Pulitzer Prize winner, at the 2016 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference.
Guzy and others offered advice that applies to all journalists, both writers and photographers.
“It’s not about us,” Guzy said. “It’s about making their stories true.”
It can be hard to see some of the painful moments that photographers witness, panelists said.
Guzy said happy moments can also take a toll. “Even the beauty can break your heart,” she said.
Anyone trying to tell a story with photos should follow their instincts, Guzy said.
Kahn said, “Focus. Don’t let anything get in your way.”
Pool found that even when a photographer is in a hurry, spending the half hour talking to the subject beforehand is valuable. People get more comfortable, and the images are better, he said.
Terrazas concurred.
It is essential, Terrazas said, to “connect with people first as a human being before you take a picture.”
At YJI, our focus is on the students, who've never had to pay 
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A coffee break, Ethiopian style

Dawit Leake / youthjournalism.org
Coffee, anyone? Enjoy it the traditional Ethiopian way with freshly roasted beans and flowers for decoration.

Dawit Leake / youthjournalism.org
Roasted coffee beans on a traditional roasting tray called a biremitad.
Dawit Leake / youthjournalism.org
A traditional Ethiopian coffee set-up. In the foreground there is a tray of popcorn, which is called fandisha in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia. In the upper left is the traditional coffee pot, or gebena, and in the upper right a rekebot, or small table to put the cups on.
Dawit Leake / youthjournalism.org
One more view of the set-up from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
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Saturday, August 20, 2016

My hometown: Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

Mona Jawad / youthjournalism.org
The view from the intersection of Curtis and Matthis streets on the outskirts of Champaign-Urbana. The scene is a familiar sight to the people of Champaign-Urbana. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

By Mona Jawad
Junior Reporter
CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Illinois, U.S.A. – A long, quiet car ride through the winding country roads at sunset, the bustle of college students downtown, and the warm smiles on a vendor’s face at the farmer’s market all come to mind when I think of my hometown.
Though the two cities are technically separate, Champaign and Urbana are right next to each other, making it hard to tell the difference between them.
Our area is referred to as C-U more often than not, and the people from each town commonly intermix in schools, special events, and everyday life. In a way, it can be thought of as two neighbors who became so close that they adopted one another as family.
It’s hard for me to think of a time, even in the colder seasons, where there isn’t something to love about the place.
Though at first glance Champaign-Urbana may seem a bit small for any real excitement, it holds just enough activity to satisfy almost any interest.
Mona Jawad / youthjournalism.org
An intersection in the downtown of Champaign, where the town holds festivals.
The cheers and roar of the crowd within the Assembly Hall in Champaign can be heard for miles away during sports games, and the marching bands at Memorial Stadium let everyone know when it’s football season.
These two arenas also host shows, concerts, and circuses during other times of the year.
Mona Jawad / youthjournalism.org
Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Similarly, music lovers and art enthusiasts alike have a beautiful place to experience passionate works at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts, where famous people – including cellist Yo Yo Ma – will sometimes come to visit and amaze their audiences.
The Virginia Theater in Champaign, located on the other side of the downtown, is another traditional place to watch both movies and plays.
Mona Jawad / youthjournalism.org
The Virginia Theater in Champaign.
The downtown area holds a large cluster of small restaurants, businesses, and even Walnut Street Tea Co., a quaint little shop that seems to take you to another time when you step inside.
At night, the lights strung across the buildings are always a sight to see.
There are parades and several different festivals on special days. This fall is the Flannel Fest in Champaign, and later this month, we’ll flash our rural side at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.
The Sweetcorn Festival attracts more than 50,000 people, according to its website, all crowding around for exciting games, stands, music, and of course, an entire team devoted to preparing free sweet corn for everyone to enjoy.
My favorite places in Champaign-Urbana, however, are the numerous parks strewn throughout the towns. Many families, alongside with ours, have warm memories of growing up around the playgrounds and scenic walks that are dotted along the landscape.
Mona Jawad / youthjournalism.org
The view from a bridge crossing a pond in the University of Illinois Arboretum. It's a beautiful place to take in a breath of fresh air.
Municipal parks constantly have events like 5Ks, marathons, and classes going on within them, and in the more nature-centric parts, it is common to find a group out on a birdwatching walk or volunteering to help keep everything running.
Mona Jawad / youthjournalism.org
The brightly painted Children's Garden is part of the Idea Garden.
One of the most popular parks is the Idea Garden in Urbana. It’s a spacious expanse inside the University of Illinois Arboretum. It includes a sensory garden filled with brilliantly bright flowers, and a place that takes Japanese cultural learning to a new level by immersing visitors in traditions such as a tea ceremony.
The main garden itself is set up by a group from the University of Illinois, and is built to delight visitors of all ages. Labels are placed next to just about every species of plant there to satisfy the curiosity of those wandering within it.
Mona Jawad / youthjournalism.org
A side view of the Idea Garden in full bloom.
The University of Illinois itself, in Urbana, is our pride and joy, and what many will half-jokingly say is the reason a great majority of our population resides here. The Quad is often the center of activity for the students, and the streets surrounding it are so flooded with campus dwellers during the school year that parking spots become a rare commodity.
Mona Jawad / youthjournalism.org
The University of Illinois Quad on a slow day. Typically it is the center of student activity.
I couldn’t think of a hometown that I would rather have grown up in. Whether it be to stay or to pass through, Champaign-Urbana welcomes all and is a perfect place to relax and explore.
Mona Jawad / youthjournalism.org
A panoramic view of the ponds and hills on the edge of the Arboretum.
Hometowns all over the world are as interesting and unique as the people who love them. YJI students are encouraged to examine the place they call home and let readers in on some of its charms. You can help keep students writing with your tax-deductible contribution. Thank you!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Loving the new Harry Potter play - from East to West, from Pakistan to the U.S.

Madeleine Deisen / youthjournalism.org
A bookstore in Marietta, Georgia promotes the new Harry Potter play.
By Madeleine Deisen and Arooj Khalid
Contains no major plot spoilers
ATLANTA, Georgia, U.S.A. and LAHORE, Pakistan – Since the release of the last Harry Potter book, avid fans have been yearning for more about the magical world and its characters, who feel more real than fictional to many Potterheads.
And since author J.K. Rowling announced the release of the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – the latest addition to the Harry Potter series – that desire only grew.
On July 31st, Harry Potter’s and Rowling’s birthdays, Cursed Child was finally released, to the delight of the Muggle world.
At the midnight book release at Barnes and Noble store in Atlanta, Georgia, Harry Potter fans of all ages united to receive their copies as soon as possible.
In Pakistan, the new release spurred long lines and even themed cupcakes for the excited crowds.
Even though the play is an extension of the Harry Potter books, readers expecting a similar style of writing will be disappointed.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a play, not a book. As such, the rich, descriptive narrative of the original series isn’t part of the story.
One of the best parts of the play is the friendship between Albus, Harry’s son, and Scorpius, Draco’s son.
Their unlikely friendship starts on their first day at Hogwarts on the Hogwarts Express. After the train arrives at Hogwarts, they both are sorted into Slytherin House. We fast forward through their first three years, and most of the play takes place during their fourth year at the magical school.
Throughout the play, the two boys are tirelessly dedicated to each other, especially because they both face bullies while at Hogwarts. It is difficult for Albus to find friends because he is sorted into Slytherin House, and since he is Harry Potter’s son, this creates even more gossip about him.
Albus grows to feel miserable at Hogwarts, in contrast the happiness Harry found there, which puts a strain on their relationship, because neither of them can understand the other’s opinion about the wizarding school.
Scorpius also faces bullies at Hogwarts because there are terrible rumors that he is Voldemort’s son. However, the two boys find solace from their unhappiness in their friendship. They are honest, but caring. They overcome the greatest of obstacles to their friendship and to the wizarding world.
Even though they are certainly flawed and nearly destroy Harry’s legacy, they realize, fix, and learn from their mistakes, and come out of it closer friends and better people.
It was interesting to see familiar characters in a new, fuller light. After watching Harry, Hermoine, Ron, Ginny and Draco grow up together as children into teenagers and then adults, we see them balancing their jobs with their family relationships.
Harry is no longer an almost-flawless hero. He struggles and often fails to be a good father to Albus, which is heartbreaking to read, but also adds to the humanity of the play.
There is also a glimpse of Draco’s gentler side in his love for his son. The friendship of Harry’s and Draco’s sons even united the two former rivals for the safety of their children.
The characters are not always black and white; there are conflicts between right and wrong inside each of them, and the right intentions often led to decidedly wrong consequences.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child may disappoint some fans because of the differences from the original series, the play format, and the changes in beloved characters. Still, it was a treat to return to the magical world of Harry Potter and be immersed in its stories once again, and Rowling’s latest certainly left her fans wanting even more.
Covering Harry Potter since our first report in April, 2000.
You can help keep the magic alive for muggles and wizards alike by giving some galleons today to Youth Journalism International. Thank you!