Give young journalists a global voice

by Youth Journalism International
With students at The Lawrenceville School
With students at The Lawrenceville School

It’s a great feeling to recognize excellent student work – but it’s really thrilling to do it in person.

Three YJI leaders got the chance to do just that last week when they made trophy presentations to Justice Bennett, named the 2016 Student Journalist of the Year, and to the staff and founders of The Contour, a newspaper at The Lawrenceville School. The Contour staff won the 2016 Courage in Journalism award in YJI’s Excellence in Journalism contest.

Justice collected his prize in front of staff members of The Blackfriar Chronicle at Malvern Preparatory School in Pennsylvania, where he is a graduating senior. Other Malvern students who won awards also were recognized in the special ceremony.

Kate Plows, an energetic and encouraging journalism teacher, gathered a couple of dozen young men and Justice’s mom into the newsroom, where the magic happens at Malvern.

After brief introductions, YJI board President Steve Collins and Executive Director Jackie Majerus, presented award certificates and YJI mementos to the students.

Then came the moment that brought us all together: Jennifer Rajotte, a YJI board member and an alum in Philadelphia, handed Justice his heavy crystal trophy. His classmates gave him a standing ovation.

Justice immediately told his fellow students that they shared in the honor, that they had done it together. We left Malvern with a warm feeling about all of them – and several glorious handmade ceramic YJI mugs from Ms. Plows, whose skills are apparently endless.

Then Collins and Majerus headed on to Lawrenceville, New Jersey and a beautiful school that looks like a small New England college.

Students from The Lawrenceville School who founded and ranThe Contour won this year’s award for Courage in Journalism. YJI recognized them for their efforts to bulldoze through the obstacles that stand in the way of every new idea and for making their internationally-focused newspaper come to life. They used their voices to inform their community as well as the greater world about events in faraway lands that are all too easily ignored.

In Lawrenceville’s beautiful rotunda, the two YJI co-founders happily presented a crystal trophy to the three managing editors who started the publication: Allison Huang, Scott Newman and Haruka Noishiki.

Their parents honored them – and us – by traveling to Lawrenceville to be there. So did Headmaster Steve Murray, a warmhearted and kind man. Not only did he change his schedule to be there for his students, but he was the first to post about their prize on Instagram.

Proud Lawrenceville staff, including Erik Chaput, The Contour’sfaculty advisor, joined in to support the students.

Afterward, Allison, Scott and two other Contour editors, Bradford Lin and Gianluca Minardi, took their YJI visitors on a fun, interesting tour of Lawrenceville. Engaging hosts, there were rightfully proud of their school and eager to show it off.

Presenting trophies and getting to know students and staff at both Malvern Prep and The Lawrenceville School left such a great impression that YJI’s leaders are eager to return – and to make more visits at other schools, too.

Typically, YJI sends its trophies via the U.S. mail, but this time, with two winners not far apart nor far away, a road trip seemed in order. As much as YJI leaders would have loved to keep driving and deliver the other three trophies in person, sadly, it wasn’t practical. The U.S. Postal Service, however, made those deliveries just fine.

In Kingsport, Tennessee, teacher David Flanary won the Journalism Educator of the Year award. In Houston, Texas, Eli Winter won the Jacinta Marie Bunnell Award for Commentary and in Anchorage, Alaska, Francisco Martinez won the Frank Keegan “Take No Prisoners” Award for News.

Part of YJI’s mission is to promote and defend a free youth press, and the annual Excellence in Journalism contest does just that, by recognizing terrific work by students around the world, whether they’re reporting for YJI or another publication.

While those trophies in Alaska, Texas and Tennessee couldn’t be delivered in person, there’s no doubt that the dedicated students and teachers there just as awesome as those who welcomed YJI to their schools last week. Here’s hoping the future offers a chance for YJI to one day make those journeys, too.


Uganda, by Daniel Gilbert Bwette
Uganda, by Daniel Gilbert Bwette

Hello friends,

Youth Journalism International has been busy, busy, busy!

In recent days, we've published everything from an analysis of Nigeria's attitudes toward homosexuality to Iranian reaction to the lifting of international sanctions. We've had stories about women in Pakistan, travel in the Caucasus, elections in Uganda, a Bruce Springsteen concert and much more.

I figured out recently that we ran stories last year from 32 different countries and from students in 19 U.S. states. That's a whole lot of young people whose voices rang out across the globe, something we're always thrilled about. And it wouldn't be possible without your help.

Your financial assistance opens doors for all sorts of students, from a 15-year-old girl in Tabris, Iran to a college student taking pictures in the jungles of The Gambia, you help tie the world together, creating bonds that stretch across continents, religions and races.

We are beyond grateful for the opportunity you have given to all these beautiful young people and to those of us who work with them every day. Thank you.





Youth Journalism International students across the world have been, as always, amazingly busy in recent weeks. From reports from the climate talk in Paris -- see this link, for example -- to reports from flooded areas of India -- there's not much that our intrepid young writers and photographers miss.

They surprise us often with the variety of material they deliver.

Here, for instance, is a recent piece by Frida Zeinali, a teen who lives in Tabris, Iran. She wrote about World AIDS Day.

And here is a story from Dallas, Texas about the museum at Dealey Plaza about the killing of President John F. Kennedy.

Or look at this one from the Philippines about a protest spurred by trade talks.

We are so proud of all they do and grateful that you have done so much to make it possible.

Take a look at the recent newsletter attached to this short report for more details. Don't hesitate to reach out to us if you ever have any questions, thoughts or concerns. We're eager to hear from you.


A little girl outside Keleti station in Hungary.
A little girl outside Keleti station in Hungary.

We'll keep this one short and just give you a taste of what YJI's students have been dong lately.

Yesterday we published a firsthand account of the refugee crisis at the Budapest train station, where one of our new reporters took pictures and listened to frustrated asylum seekers fleeing Syria's nightmares. You can see her story here.

Just before that, we published a piece about a stunning Van Gogh exhibit at a small museum in Massachusetts. You can read that here.

On Monday, we had a news piece about how Nigerians are losing faith in their newly elected president. You can take a look at that one here.

We could go on easily enough, linking you to one terrific story after another, all of them available on our blog and, sometimes a little later, on our website.

But here's one from the archives that we urge you to search out now that we're all thinking about the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. At the time, we published a yearlong journal from a high school senior in St. Bernard Parish, just outside New Orleans, whose home flooded. It is an amazing story, full of grit, hope and hardship. It's easily one of the best things written about Katrina and if you've never seen it, you should. Start here.

Hello from Youth Journalism International!

We have been awfully busy this winter with our normal educational activities, our annual journalism contest and much more. But perhaps what you'd find most interesting is a glimpse at our new Winter 2015 class of students, whom we've just brought on board.

Here's what we wrote to them recently:

Greetings and welcome! You live in 31 countries, including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Rwanda, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, the West Bank and Ghana. About one third of the group lives in the United States and about half are American citizens.

Two-thirds of you are teens and two-thirds of you are women.

About 80 percent of you have a Facebook account, 90 percent have a cell phone and half of you have a Twitter and/or an Instagram account.

Two-fifths of you speak something other than English at home. Among the other languages you primarily speak are Arabic, Bahasa, Bengali, Burmese, Hindi, Chinese, Filippino, Igbo, Korean, Malay, Thai, Pashto, Polish, Russian, Sinhala, Tagalog, Tamazight, Tamil, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese and Yoruba.

The cities with the most new members are Lahore, Pakistan and Chennai, India. There are multiple students from a number of places, though, including London, Melbourne, Long Island and Connecticut, where YJI is based. 

In short, you represent a wide swath of the planet and come from a range of cultures and religions. Some of you are members of wealthy families in rich communities. Others live in cities or villages where many people are struggling.

One of the many remarkable things about Youth Journalism International is that you have the chance, if you seize it, to gain real insight into this world we share by making friends with one another. Make it part of your mission with YJI to build some personal connections with classmates who are near and far, from both similar and wildly different backgrounds.  You have much to learn from them, and they can learn from you, too.

We are convinced that one of the most important things YJI does is to create connections that cross cultures and borders so that everyone involved can recognize our common humanity. That is the path to peace.

Through YJI, we have made friends in places we will most likely never see. And we've met scores of young people who have made their way to our door or to somewhere not too distant. Our lives have been enriched more than we can say. It's hard to imagine the past 21 years without the young people we've come to know, including many alumni who are working as doctors, teachers, social workers, lawyers and, yes, even journalists. We are so proud of them all.

We can't wait to get to know you, too.

Since then, we've actually added a few more students to you can add New Zealand, Gambia, South Africa and Russia to the list of places where we have new students. It's amazing, really, that all these students are eager to join us.

In truth, there are always many more than our tiny organization can possibly cope with. But we do what we can do, relying heavily on volunteers and stretching every dollar we have. I hope you know that you have made a real difference in the lives of young people in many lands, giving them a sense of their place in the world and the confidence to speak out and stand tall. There's a reason so many of them have gone on to college and careers that amaze us (despite, in many case, coming from low-income or splintered homes). You've made that possible for those who came before and, we're confident, for these new students who just getting started.

By the way, if you look at our blog, you'll find pieces by at least four of the newcomers already. We don't waste time here at YJI!

Thank you for making it all possible.



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Organization Information

Youth Journalism International

Location: United States, West Hartford - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Steve Collins
West Hartford, Connecticut United States
$11,667 raised of $15,000 goal
196 donations
$3,333 to go
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