My wife and I began our journalism careers as students with Youth Journalism International.
We're now both award-winning professional reporters who have been published by a number of newspapers and now work for the News & Record in Greensboro, NC.
We use the skills we learned from YJI's Jackie Majerus and Steve Collins every day and have been lucky enough to pass them on to other young journalists, students and interns. We've been amazed to see Youth Journalism International grow in the years since we were students and the quality of the journalism they produce with young people all over the world.
I came to YJI as a 15-year-old high school sophomore with a keen but unfocused interest in writing. Through one-on-one mentoring and on-the-job news training with Jackie and Steve Majerus-Collins, I was set on the path that would make me an award winning professional reporter.
Youth Journalism International took a raw, burgeoning curiosity and honed it into a passion and skill for investigation and analysis.
It put me miles ahead in my first college journalism classes and gave me a leg-up when I began looking (and competing) for internships.
And ultimately, it taught me ethical and technical lessons I still use everyday in my career as a journalist.
Just as crucially, it introduced me to other young men and women from different backgrounds, classes and cultures -- a number of whom became lifelong friends. Opening a young person's world that way is invaluable and still a vital part of what this group does every day.
When Malala Yousafza, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, was shot by The Taliban for advocating education for girls in her Swat Valley home, the world felt angry and sad. At Youth Journalism International, we did, too. But we also did something concrete: we asked our students to write about it. Among the many eloquent pieces we received was one from a Pakistani girl, 15-year-old Arooj Khalid, who has been writing for YJI for more than a year already. It's a beautiful piece, courageous and true. And that's what makes YJI so special: We are out there helping young people around tell their stories, day in and day out. There's nothing else like it.
Youth Journalism International constantly surprises me. It's always done a wonderful job of helping young people around the world tell the stories that shape their lives. It's built bridges across cultures and opened minds in many ways. Only recently, though, have I realized how its extensive coverage of the arts is making a real difference. YJI students, like many, have done scores -- maybe hundreds -- of movie reviews over the years. They have also written dozens of theater and music reviews. They have gone to art museums. They have written about cultural institutions as varied as Mystic Seaport and the Louvre. They have interviewed artists and actors, poets and writers. They have done an astonishing amount to bring the arts to the attention of their peers and to the world as a whole. They have also jumped in at times to participate in appropriate artistic endeavors, including the recent 24-hour reading of Uncle Tom's Cabin at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford. And at least one alumni became a professional artists at least in part because his editorial cartoons done for YJI showed off his talents early.
Youth Journalism International has been the platform for developing my intellectual understanding over the years by joining this wonderful organization in 2005 as a student journalist when I was a teenager and now that I’m its board member. Ever since, I have been inspired from YJI’s growing environment of talented youths from around the world. Students find YJI a fascinating organization due to its professional conduct of journalism and nurturing bond of friendship within its community. The diversity of YJI’s students from across the globe has made it an amazing stage for cross cultural understanding and building up bridges between youths of various countries. In addition, I have also found some amazing friends at YJI that I value the most. Among YJI’s cultures are professionalism, freedom of speech, respect, openness, knowledge sharing, education and friendship and there are no room for any sort of discriminations. I have experienced nowhere else such encouragement and support that YJI’s mentors and its founders has been giving me since I have joined this organization.
I hope many of our students and friends will write reviews of Youth Journalism International. We would love to hear what you have to say!