U.S. Rep. John Larson fields YJI questions
There is always so much going on at Youth Journalism International that it's hard to stop, stand back and figure out what's worth passing along. The work that our students churn out is featured, day in and day out, on our blog at www.YJIblog.org. In the last couple of weeks, students have written about an Armenian journalist slain in Turkey, a congressional initiative in the United States to ensure the voices of young people are heard, Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, Valentine's Day in Pakistan, the upcoming movie of Les Miserables, a cricket match in Dubai, the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, The Strokes' lates album and anti-bullying efforts in Connecticut. Whew... and that's not even everything!
If you have any questions about YJI, don't hesitate to ask. We are doing great stuff and we are so determined to make this organization grow so that it can do more. We remain heartsick that so many kids are knocking on our door whom we just can't handle without staff and resources that we don't yet possess.
But let me tell you about something that happened yesterday when we brought five YJI students to the office of U.S. Rep. John Larson of Connecticut who was leading a teleconference session between his youth cabinet and another youth panel recently created by a Missouri congressman. Our student team covered the session -- with live tweets, photos, video and, ultimately, two stories -- because it was something of real interest to young people. When it was all over, we asked Larson if he'd mind posing for a picture with our reporting squad. Like any good politician, he was more than willing, of course. Here they are:
From left, Youth Journalism International reporters Kiernan Majerus-Collins, Yelena Samofalova, Connecticut Congressman John Larson, Youth Journalism International reporters Ameni Mathlouthi, Erez Bittan and Mary Majerus-Collins on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Larson's Hartford office.
What we really loved, though, was that after posing, the students kept peppering him with questions. He wound up talking with them for a long while about all sorts of things, from lowering the voting age to the medical use of marijuana. The five of them displayed a raw curiosity, a willingness to challenge one of the most powerful members of Congress and a pure delight in extracting information that may or may not wind up in a story sometime. They were, in short, real reporters there -- and Rep. Larson showed them both the professional courtesy that comes of it and the grace of a guy who's both a father and a former history teacher in dealing with the young. We were proud of them all.
What made it especially sweet was seeing one of our young journalists, Ameni Mathlouthi, going to toe to toe with the congressman. Mathlouthi is a Tunisian student who is studying in Connecticut on an exchange program. She wrote earlier this year about her participation in the Arab Spring a year earlier, when Tunisians led the way toward what they hope will be a more free country. (You can read her account here
.) She did more than see how Americans can challenge their leaders and express their thoughts. She got a chance to live it. And that is what Youth Journalism International offers to young people everywhere -- the chance to be part of a worldwide organization that recognizes their natural right to liberty and embraces both that right and them. We try not to put anyone at risk, of course, but we also help knock down the barriers that keep people from being and achieving everything they can. You can rest assured that Ameni is going to make her mark on this world. After all, she already has.