WHERE THE YWP COMMUNITY RESPONDS TO
WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE WORLD
ABOUT THE COMMUNITY JOURNALISM PROJECT (CJP): You'll find all of YWP's ongoing, newsy, issue-based challenges here as YWP follows news and current events. Join us and explore CJP! New challenges are featured at the top of the list, but you can respond to any challenges any time! More info about the Community Journalism Project here.
TEENAGER: Who are you?
SEE THE APRIL ISSUE OF THE VOICE FOR WINNING SUBMISSIONS!
SEE ALL RESPONSES TO THE CONTEST HERE!
Held v. Montana – Sixteen young Montanans have sued their state, arguing that its support of fossil fuels violates the state Constitution that guarantees residents “the right to a clean and healthful environment.” Read about this landmark climate change case in The New York Times story, March 24, 2023.
Ode to a Tree – With Ice Blink's photo as inspiration, take a photograph of a favorite tree!
Climate Messages – Earth Day is Saturday, April 22, 2023. We have one Earth and limited time. In words or images, what message do you want to send? [Photo by Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash]
A.I. – What do you think about Artificial Intelligence, ChatGPT, and whatever else is coming at us? Are we ready for this? Read "This Changes Everything" by Ezra Klein, New York Times, March 12, 2023. [Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash]
Ukraine-Year 2 – On the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, do you wonder how and when this war might end?
Teaching Bans – With the rise of Trumpism, and scare stories by Republican politicians like Florida governor Ron DeSantis, high schools and colleges are being attacked for trying to teach "liberal propaganda.” What is your experience?
Tyre Nichols – "My son was a beautiful soul." Tyre Nichols' mother's words to describe the son she lost to a violent police beating on Jan. 7. Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was beaten by Memphis police officers after a traffic stop near his mother RowVaughn Wells' home. He died three days later. Five officers have been fired and charged with felonies including second-degree murder. President Bident called it "yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and brown Americans experience every single day.” Write about it.
Goodbye 2022: "With love, I'm leaving you in my past, 2022," writes YWP's Penelope in her latest blog post at Young Writers Project. What parts of 2022 are you ready to say goodbye to – with love, with abandon, with bittersweet resignation, with relief – and what are you unwilling to let go of? In photos or words, tell us! [Photo credit: Penelope, YWP]
2022 Midterms: Are you watching the midterm results? Democrats Retain Power in Senate [New York Times, Nov. 12, 2022] Reproductive rights upheld! Election deniers lose top elections positions. Democracy holds! Read all about it! Respond!
Reproductive Rights: Vermont has become the first state to enshrine reproductive rights in its constitution with an overwhelming vote in favor of Proposition 5 – more than 70 percent – in the Nov. 8 midterm election. “Vermont voters made history today,” said James Lyall, executive director of the ACLU of Vermont. “We enshrined in Vermont’s constitutions the strongest abortion rights protections in the country.” Vermont’s constitution will be appended with a 22nd article, which will read: “That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” Think about that! And write about it!
America Now: What do you see when you look at America right now, just before the 2022 midterm elections?
Book Bans: How does the growing movement to ban books in the U.S. affect you personally, your education, your friends? Take a look at Pen America's Index of School Book Bans. Write about it!
Trans: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate families with transgender children for child abuse in February. Read about the impact of this order on the children and their families, as told by one of the conflicted state investigators. Read and respond to this Washington Post story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/09/23/texas-transgender-chi...
School: For many of us, school just started, and it's time to vent: How do you feel about it? Are you ready, or do you never want summer to end? Do you feel like you can express your authentic self at school? [Challenge created by elise.writer]
Kindness: Have you given or received a "random act of kindness?" Describe its impact. And read this story from the New York Times, "The Unexpected Power of Random Acts of Kindness," Sept. 6, 2022
Ahead: What's ahead? If you picture yourself in a year, five years or even 50 years, where do you see yourself? What will you do with this one precious life? Think about it. Write about it.
Kansas: Kansas voters have voted overwhelmingly to keep their state’s abortion protections, in the first political test since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. More votes in more states will follow. What are your thoughts? [Read more in this Washington Post story, Aug. 3, 2022]
Rights: What do you fear about the Supreme Court's decisions on abortion, climate change, guns and more? What rights do you fear will be removed – LGBTQ+? Contraception? Write about it! And read this New York Times piece on America, the divided: "Spurred by the Supreme Court, a Nation Divides Along a Red-Blue Axis."
8 Reasons: When the world becomes a dark and frightening place, we turn to poetry in the hope that the words will make sense of what doesn't make sense, to make a connection, a bond, with others who share the same dismay, outrage, and desolation. We turn to poetry to fight for change. Words, not weapons, can inspire and empower. Find strength in poetry: your own poetry and the poetry of others, such as Amanda Gorman and her prescient 2019 poem, "8 Reasons to Stand Up Today Against Abortion Bans in the United States."
Now What? What is the path forward after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion after almost 50 years? What rights are next? According to Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times, June 25, there are ways of disciplining a rogue Supreme Court if there is the political will to do it. He writes: "The Constitution provides a number of paths by which Congress can restrain and discipline a rogue court. It can impeach and remove justices. It can increase or decrease the size of the court itself (at its inception, the Supreme Court had only six members). It can strip the court of its jurisdiction over certain issues or it can weaken its power of judicial review by requiring a supermajority of justices to sign off on any decision that overturns a law. Congress can also rebuke the court with legislation that simply cancels the decision in question." What are you thinking today?
Roe v. Wade: The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision released June 24, has overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years. Read more. Respond.
Uvalde. Another horrific school shooting – a massacre of at least 19 elementary school children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, May 24, 2022. The deadliest school shooting since 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., 10 years ago. Just days after a man driven by racism killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket, followed the next day by another angry shooter at a church in Laguna Woods, Calif., killing one, injuring five. ‘I am sick and tired of it," President Biden says. "We have to act." Well, let's act – finally and decisiviely. Gun control is possible. Let's find our "backbone" as Biden says. [Background on guns: "How to Reduce Shootings," NY Times, May 25, 2022] Write your thoughts, write a letter to Congress to act now.
Fury: Thousands marched outside the U.S. Supreme Court and in cities and towns across the nation on May 14 to rally for abortion rights in response to the leaked draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Share your voice! Washington Post story: "With fear and fury..." [Photo: Washington, DC, May 14, 2022. Credit: Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post]
Roe v. Wade (pre-decision): The right to abortion, established almost 50 years ago in the landmark decision Roe v. Wade, is about to be overturned by a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a leaked report published by Politico, May 3, 2022. Read the Politico story here. What's your opinion? Respond!
Book Bans: There's a frenzy of book-banning in schools across the U.S. PEN America, an advocate for freedom of expression, counts 1,586 book bans in schools over the past nine months. Some of the books are listed in this story, "These are books school systems don’t want you to read, and why," Washington Post, May 2, 2022. Have you read any of them? Share what you know about them. Share your thoughts on banning books.
Cover Art: Your art should be on the cover of a book! Post your best photos, drawings, paintings, digital art, sketches, etc., to illustrate the cover of our next anthology – Anthology 13 – to be published in September 2022! You can choose any medium, theme, format, horizontal or vertical, in any color or colors. Post as often as you like. Be sure your work is clear and high resolution for printing. Think of the kind of art that would make you open the book – and get creative! Due May 31
Poetry Month: April is National Poetry Month – time to send a big thank you out to all poets. Thank you for bringing balance to the world, for asking questions and making us think, for words and images that so perfectly explain exactly what we've been thinking that we are left wondering, how? How do you do it? How do you have so much soul? If you have a minute, consider "What is Poetry?" [New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/books/review/what-is-poetry.htm... ... and if you have a few more minutes, write a poem – because you are a poet and we thank you for that!
Supreme!: Here's a historic moment to celebrate! Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has become the first Black woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. In taking on the role and becoming a role model to so many, she turned to Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” to express the depth of her task: “I do so now while bringing the gifts my ancestors gave. I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” Inspired? Write about it! And read more in this New York Times story, "‘We’ve Made It’: Jackson Celebrates Supreme Court Confirmation."
My Generation: Make us understand exactly what you and your generation are facing. Write a poem, essay, commentary, song. For inspiration, read Shreyber's poem, My Generation, posted on the YWP site.
LGBTQ: Students in Burlington and Montpelier joined more than a dozen Vermont schools in a walkout 3/11/22 as part of a nationwide protest against measures in Florida and Texas that threaten LGBTQ people — the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida and a directive that treats transgender care for youth as “child abuse” in Texas. Read the VTDigger.org story here. And the Seven Days story here. And WRITE about this issue!
Ukraine: Write a letter of support or a poem of tribute to the Ukrainian people as they stand against Putin's invasion of their country. Read more about their heroism, what they are facing, and how this conflict is involving the whole world. [Read Live Updates from the New York Times]
Skiing Cochrans: The Cochrans' story just keeps getting better with Ryan Cochran-Siegle's silver medal in the super-G at the winter Olympics on Tuesday – 50 years after his mother Baraba Ann Cochran won gold in women's slalom at the Sapporo Olympics in 1972. Six members of the Cochran family have skied in the Olympics. Vermont – and especially the many skiers who learned at Cochran's Ski Area in Richmond, VT – are celebrating with them. If you learned to ski at Cochran's, share the experience here!
Un-Zoom Me!: Tired of Zoom and all things pandemic-related? Write about it! Get it all out!
FB-Reckoning: As Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg come under increasing scrutiny for putting profits before people, what are you thinking about social media and its impact on our lives? [Read this Washington Post story, "The Case Against Mark Zuckerberg."]
Re-entry: Returning to school after remote learning during the pandemic has been difficult for many students. What are you observing and experiencing? [See the story, "These are students in crisis," VTDigger.org, Oct. 15, 2021; Photo: Glenn Russell, VTDigger.org]
Social Media: Social media can consume our thoughts and time. Have you ever thought of quitting? Write about social media's influence on your life. [Suggested reading: New York Times, Oct. 1, 2021, "How I Knew I Needed to Quit Instagram."
Winooski: Hundreds of people turned out Sept. 28 to support the Winooski High School boys soccer team at a home game after the district’s superintendent reported that the team faced racist abuse at a recent game against another Vermont team. An ugly incident has turned into an uplifting story, with the school's principal saying, "This is what community looks like...We stand up for each other." See the VTDigger story here. If this story moves you, write about it and we'll send your responses to the school.
Women: Women can be a powerful force for change. Is there a historic or personal event that makes this phrase come to life for you?
Refugees: Afghan refugees will be arriving in communities across the U.S., including in Vermont in October, according to the U.S. State Department. (See the VTDigger.org story here). How do we welcome them? What can we do?
9/11/21: It has been 20 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. How have you been taught about Sept. 11, 2001? How have the events of that day affected you or your family? Listen to what students in 12 countries say about how they are taught about 9/11 in this New York Times interactive story. Share your own story.
Vaccinate: President Biden says we've been patient but now it's time to get tough on Americans who refuse to get vaccinated. What do you think of this decision? How will it affect you and your family? Read the highlights in The New York Times here.
Anti-vax: A picture says a thousand words ... thanks to VTDigger.org photographer Glenn Russell for capturing this one at Champlain Valley Union High School. See the story: CVU Student Goes Viral ... Any words for the picture?
Texas: "Women of America are not calm right now..." [Claire McCaskell, as quoted by Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin]. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to block a Texas abortion ban, the most restrictive abortion law in the country. It prohibits most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, makes no exceptions for incest or rape, and deputizes citizens to sue providers or those aiding the procedure with the potential for a $10,000 reward. What does this mean for women in Texas and women across America? What do you think? [Q & A on Texas law in this New York Times story: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/01/health/texas-abortion-law-facts.html]
Amanda: Poet Amanda Gorman, the sensational poet at President Biden's inauguration in January 2021, has become "Global Changemaker" for Estee Lauder, representing the brand in ad campaigns and speaking events. Her stated goal is to advance literacy, equity and access. Do you think she can do it? Read the New York Times story here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/02/style/amanda-gorman-estee-lauder.html
Afghanistan: Read about the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan and all its implications. Write about it from any angle – what it means for those left behind, especially the women, for those who have become refugees, or the deadly toll it has taken for Americans and Afghans.
SEE THE CONTEST SUBMISSIONS HERE
CLIMATE CHALLENGES from 2021-22
Closing Window: A United Nations report says we have a "rapidly closing window" to stop catastrophic climate change. Read the story and respond: Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2022.
Celtic: Be inspired by this New York Times story, "Using Science and Celtic Wisdom to Save Trees (and Souls)." Diana Beresford-Kroeger, a botanist and author who lives in Canada, has created a forest with tree species handpicked for their ability to withstand a warming planet. Read the New York Times story (Feb. 24, 2022) here.
Already Here: What does climate change look like? We are seeing it already. Read and respond to the New York Times graphic story on climate change's devastating effects, country by country here.
Glasgow-Agreement: A deal has been reached at the COP26 summit on climate change in Glasgow, but is it enough? Read about the Glasgow climate agreement in this New York Times story. The story says, in part, "The talks underscored the complexity of trying to persuade scores of countries, each with their economic interests and domestic politics, to act in unison for the greater good. But the agreement established a clear consensus that all nations must do much more, immediately, to prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperatures." Reason to hope? Or more disappointment? What do you think?
Climate-Perspective: Write about climate change from the perspective of an animal.
See also: Climate-10 Photos: Ten striking photos of nature and animals in a Washington Post series show the devastating impact of climate crises on the natural world. See the photos in "The Urgency of Awe," [Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2021].
Climate-Glagow: At the UN Climate Change conference, COP26 – Oct. 31-Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland – world leaders will be urged to reduce carbon, stop deforestation, phase out coal, restore ecosystems, spend money – to take bold action against climate change. What is your message to them? What is your hope?
Climate-COP26: The UN Climate Change conference, COP26, runs from Oct. 31-Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland. And just before the conference, a youth conference on climate change is happening in Glasgow, Oct. 28-31. Find out more about COY (UN Climate Change Conference of Youth) here. Watch both conferences!
Follow the progress of COP26's main goals:
1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.
2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.
3. Mobilize finance, unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.
4. Work together to accelerate action and finalize the Paris Rulebook (the rules that make the Paris Agreement operational).
The UN calls on countries to:
- accelerate the phase-out of coal
- curtail deforestation
- speed up the switch to electric vehicles
- encourage investment in renewables
- protect and restore ecosystems
- build defences, warning systems, resilient infrastructure
Climate-Alarmed: VT Sen. Bernie Sanders, quoted in this Washington Post story, "The Climate Catastrophe is Here," Oct. 25, 2021, says: "I’ve been criticized for being an "alarmist" on climate change. That’s right. I am alarmed. Climate change is a global emergency and a major national security threat. We must bring the world together and take on the existential threat of climate change NOW. This can't wait." Read the story and respond!
Climate Readings: Read about climate change and the natural world. Here are some suggested resources. Click on the challenge title for links. If you're inspired, write a review of the book or article to share your thoughts with others.
- 17 Books That Will Change The Way You Think About The World, including "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History" by Elizabeth Kolbert, "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet" by Bill McKibben, and "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver
- "The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times" by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams
- "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- "Felicity" by Mary Oliver
- The Great Climate Migration Has Begun, The New York Times
- Inaction on climate change imperils millions of lives, doctors say, Washington Post
- How Climate Migration Will Reshape America, The New York Times
- How Russia Wins the Climate Crisis, The New York Times
- A Climate Reckoning in Fire-Stricken California, The New York Times
PAST GENERAL NEWS CHALLENGES from 2020-21
Olympics: With Covid still lurking, and without a live audience, are the Tokyo Olympics a bust? Or is the fact that they carried on, inspite of everything, a spirit booster?
Yosemite: Read this article from The New York Times: "What I Saw in Yosemite Was Devastating." Is there a similar natural place in your life that has altered since you were younger due to climate change? Research it – read local newspaper articles, talk to your neighbors, etc., and write your own op-ed about the devastating effects of climate change on our so-called “protected” natural areas. [Challenge created by charvermont]
Covid Lessons: Shout-out to Vermont for the way the state has handled Covid-19. See the Washington Post story comparing the two different approaches of Vermont and South Dakota. What has been your experience?
Chauvin: Former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, has been sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison for the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. The gruesome scene of Floyd's desperate cries for help while Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck led to national outrage, protests, and a reckoning over racial injustice. Does it seem to be an "appropriate" sentence for Chauvin, as President Biden said? Write about the sentencing and your thoughts a year after Floyd's death. Read the New York Times story, June 25, 2021.
Makeup: You (or your character) are standing in front of a mirror, putting on makeup. What are you thinking? Are you doing this for you or other people?
Maskless? Are you ready to remove masks, hug friends, sit in a crowded room with maskless strangers? Are you jumping in or holding back? Why? (A little background: 723 Epidemiologists on When and How the U.S. Can Fully Return to Normal, New York Times, May 15, 2021)
Climate-Solutions: President Biden’s summit meeting on climate change ended April 23 with a promise to reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and help other countries do the same, marking a significant shift in climate policy. What must happen next and how quickly? Do you have reason to hope? (Read: Humanity’s greatest ally against climate change is the Earth itself, Washington Post, April 22, 2021)
BLM-Verdict: The verdict in the murder of George Floyd – guilty on all three charges – is heralded as a step toward racial justice and a rare rebuke of police violence. Former Minneapolis police offer Derek Chauvin faces decades in prison for pressing his knee into Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, a horrific crime brought to light by teenager Darnella Frazier's video – and sparking massive Black Lives Matter protests across the nation and beyond. But just as the verdict was being celebrated, Black teenager Ma'Khia Bryant was shot and killed by police in Ohio. (Read the Washington Post story here.) Is real change possible?
"Giant Asian Girls:" Vermont artist Misoo Bang's extraordinary painting and collage series, "Giant Asian Girls," addresses racial and gender stereotypes and violence as it relates to Asian American women living in America. Read the story and see her art in VTDigger.org, "Artist Misoo Bang’s Giant Asian Girl series challenges ‘vulnerable’ stereotype" (Emma Cotton, April 4, 2021).
Enough: Two mass shootings in a week. Why? When will enough be enough? (Why does the US have so many mass shootings? New York Times)
Spring Sounds: What are your favorite sounds of spring? What sounds make you look up and look forward? Describe them. Record them. Help us hear them with you.
Wall: How does Trump's border wall symbolize his term as president? Thinking in adjectives, how does the wall tell the story? For inspiration, read "Trump's Incomplete Border Wall Is in Pieces That Could Linger for Decades," (New York Times, March 16, 2021)
Reflecting: The past year has taught me a lot about ... Finish the sentence. What have you learned from this pandemic year – the good, the bad, the boring, the scary. Be brief or expansive. Be honest.
Pandemic: One thing: Mark the one-year "anniversary" of the pandemic with the one thing that stands out for you – in any genre or format you like, poetry, essay, song, photo, sketch, or even just one word.
Vaccine: When I am vaccinated against Covid-19, the first thing I want to do is ... Finish the thought!
Wonder: Sprouting from Frostbite's poem, A Child Forever, imagine a world where no one ever lost their child-like wonder, curiosity, and joy. Describe that world or a day in the life of a character in that world.
CJP-Climate: Is anyone listening? Send an urgent message about climate change so people will sit up and pay attention. (Also in March 2020 challenges)
Year 2. We're entering Year 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic. How are you doing? What stands out about the past year? The toilet paper shortage? Everything Zoom? Books and movies you've devoured? Things and people you miss?
Immigrants. The Biden administration is introducing immigration reform that includes a “pathway to citizenship” for the over 11 million illegal immigrants living in America. Write about the immigrant experience in America, past, present, or, maybe, a hopeful future.
Jurors: If you could send a message to the senators hearing the evidence in former president Trump's second impeachment trial, what would you say?
Impeachment-Words: Words can spark joy or incite violence. They can reveal truth or they can spread lies. How have former president Trump’s words affected America? (Listen to "Lie after Lie," New York Times.) Consider the importance of words and their role in the violent storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Trial #2: The second impeachment trial begins in the Senate today for former president Donald Trump, charged with “incitement of insurrection” by the U.S. House after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. How do you think justice will best be served in this trial?:
New Day: President Joe Biden set to work immediately on Inauguration Day on climate change, immigration, the pandemic. New day in America? What do you think?
Inauguration: Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Inauguration Day. President Joseph R. Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris promise a new day. "I know these are dark times but there’s always light," Biden said on the eve of his inauguration. Do you see a hint of that light today? Write about this moment in history as you see it.
Inaugural Poetry: Amanda Gorman, 22, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, will read her poem, “The Hill We Climb," at President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration tomorrow. Of the poem, she told the New York Times, “There is space for grief and horror and hope and unity, and I also hope that there is a breath for joy in the poem, because I do think we have a lot to celebrate at this inauguration.” Read the NYT story. If you are inspired, write a few lines to commemorate this inauguration and this time.
MLK: Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sought to guide us to a more just America. Respond to Dr. King's message of love and equality as it relates to America in 2020: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." (Strength to Love, 1963)
Impeached-Part 2: A week after the Capitol was stormed by an angry mob of Trump supporters, the House voted Jan. 13 to impeach the president for inciting an insurrection. Next move: A trial in the Senate. What do you think about this moment in our history?
America. Write to America – a letter, essay, poem, plea, song, whatever way you choose to share your thoughts about your country right now, today.
"Unhinged." What price should President Trump and his enablers pay for the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021? Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose office was ransacked by the mob and her terrified staff hid under a table for hours, told '60 Minutes' that Trump is "a deranged, unhinged, dangerous president ... He has done something so serious that there should be prosecution against him.” See the Washington Post story here. What are you thinking?
Georgia. Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff made history Jan. 5-6, 2021 when they won both Georgia Senate seats — and with them, the U.S. Senate majority. Warnock is Georgia’s first Black senator and the first Black Democrat to win a Senate seat in the South since Reconstruction. Ossoff is the state's first Jewish senator and, at 33, the Senate's youngest member. Lost in the mayhem at the Capitol Jan. 6, this, too, deserves our attention. Consider this milestone in Georgia. Write!
Discussion? "Did your teachers talk to you about what happened at the Capitol," on Jan. 6? asks LadyMidnight in Tiny Writes. Find the conversation thread in Tiny Writes (posted 01/07/2021 - 9:31pm) and respond there – or here.
Insurrection. Despite the storming of the Capitol Jan. 7, 2021 by a mob incited by President Trump, Congress managed to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's win ahead of his Jan. 20 Inauguration. Can America wait two weeks for a new president? Should Trump "resign or be removed from office," as Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and others have suggested? What are your thoughts on this "insurrection?"
Warnock. The Rev. Raphael Warnock made history on Jan. 6, 2021, becoming Georgia’s first Black senator and the first Black Democrat to win a Senate seat in the South since Reconstruction. In declaring victory, Warnock reflected on his family's path in an eloquent tribute to his mother, Verlene Warnock: “The 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.” Reflect on this American story. Write!
Letter to Me. Write yourself a letter about the things you've missed and what you've noticed or observed during the pandemic. Return to the letter a year after the pandemic has ended, and expect to feel a rush of gratitude for even the smallest, seemingly insignificant things. [Challenge inspired by A 12-Year-Old’s Letter to Her Post-Pandemic Self, New York Times, Dec. 30, 2020]
New. A new year, a new friend, a new book, a favorite new toy of your childhood. Think about the sensation of newness. Use all your senses to describe the feeling.
Five. Five things I learned in 2020 ... Take five quick minutes to list five (more or less if you like) new discoveries you made in the past year, pandemic-related or not! Come back later to expand on favorites or leave it as a list that you can reflect on in a year or two.
'Twas. Taking inspiration from the famous poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (better known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," write your own tribute to Christmas 2020 – pandemic-themed, or not! You know the poem, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore: "'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads ..." Be original and credit the original poet. Have fun!
Goodbye 2020. It has been a year ... let's give it a royal send-off! Write a list or quick snapshots of the moments, events, surprises, changes, lessons, anything that made 2020 that year. Then wish it farewell!
Online. Write about your experience with online learning during the pandemic. The good, the bad, and all the rest. This challenge was inspired by blue_potato's poem, Online: "Today I spent my day looking at my computer. Tomorrow I will do the same. It is hard to see the end, to see a day when my eyes don't ache and I see the sun..." Read on!
Democracy holds. Elections remain free and fair in America – despite President Trump's court challenges. Democracy holds. Watching this unfold, what does democracy mean to you? Some background: In a unanimous court decision rejecting Trump's attempt to overturn the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results, Stephanos Bibas of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit writes: “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.” In a Washington Post story, "20 Days of Fantasy and Failure," (Nov. 28, 2020), William A. Galston, of the Brookings Institution, marvels at democracy's strength. "Not only did our institutions hold, but the most determined effort by a president to overturn the people’s verdict in American history really didn’t get anywhere,” Galston is quoted. “It’s not that it fell short. It didn’t get anywhere. This, to me, is remarkable.”
Advice. You have five minutes to convince President-elect Joe Biden to care about a certain issue that is close to your heart. In brief talking points or persuasive prose, poetry or song, make your case!
Onward. Try to look beyond the messy aftermath of the election while we await the Biden/Harris inauguration. Is it possible that better days lie ahead for America? What or who gives you hope for the future?
Biden/Harris. Where were you when you heard the news that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 Presidential Election? What could this mean for America? Write about this historic time! Share your thoughts! Share your photos!
CJP-Waiting. In the aftermath of the historic 2020 presidential election, we wait for a decision. What are you thinking today?
I hope... I hope .... finish the sentence. Add a few words, a few sentences, an essay! What do you hope for on Nov. 3 – one of the most consequential elections in the nation's history? Or what do you hope for beyond the election, in a new year – a new era? You might not be of voting age, but you have a voice that matters – and hope!
CJP-Democracy. The New York Times sends out an urgent plea in its Oct. 16 editorial for Americans to vote for democracy, to vote Donald Trump out of office. Read the full editorial here. In part, it says, "Donald Trump’s re-election campaign poses the greatest threat to American democracy since World War II. Mr. Trump’s ruinous tenure already has gravely damaged the United States at home and around the world. He has abused the power of his office and denied the legitimacy of his political opponents, shattering the norms that have bound the nation together for generations. He has subsumed the public interest to the profitability of his business and political interests. He has shown a breathtaking disregard for the lives and liberties of Americans. He is a man unworthy of the office he holds. ... Nov. 3 can be a turning point. This is an election about the country’s future, and what path its citizens wish to choose." Make your plea for democracy! Now is the time to raise your voice!
CJP-Barrett. U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's nomination hearings are happening the week of Oct.12-15, 2020. If successful, she will replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Catch up with the hearings and write your observations on the nominee, the process, the comparison to Ginsburg, the timing so close to the Nov. 3 election, anything you're thinking about.
CJP-Fly. Some things are just funny. And you can't make them up. Like the fly that landed on Vice President Mike Pence's head (and stayed there for over two minutes) during the VP debate with Kamala Harris, Oct. 7. Write an ode to the fly.
Election 2020. The U.S. presidential election is approaching on Nov. 3. You might not be able to vote, but you have a voice. What message would you send on Election Day?
CJP-COVID-Trump. How do you think this news (Trump Tests Positive for the Coronavirus, NYTimes, Oct. 2, 2020) will affect the 2020 election and/or the way America views the coronavirus pandemic?
CJP-Countdown. We're in the final stretch before the Nov. 3 election. Speak out on the issues, the candidates, whatever's on your mind as this important date approaches.
CJP-Debate. Did you watch last night's first presidential debate? Thoughts on the candidates, their positions, and the tenor of the debate? How would you rate it on a scale of 0-5?
RBG. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at 87 on Sept. 18, spent her life fighting for equality for all Americans. How will you carry on RBG's fight? And/or what does her loss mean for the Supreme Court and the 2020 election? [See Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Legacy, New York Times, 9/19/20]
CJP-Hazardous. PCBs, not COVID, have shut down Burlington High School for the semester. If you're a student at BHS – or from another school where the school experience has been as weird as the times we're living right now, write about it! Read the story in Seven Days, Hazardous Air Forces Burlington High School to Close for Entire Semester.
CJP-Climate Crisis. Climate change isn't real? Using your skills of persuasion, write a letter, a plea, a manifesto so powerful it will change minds. Read the story, How Climate Migration Will Reshape America, in The New York Times.
CJP-Electoral College. The candidate with the most votes does not necessarily win the presidential election, because the Electoral College system is designed to provide a voice for low-population states. Is this fair? Still realistic today?
Covid-Issue. What is an issue or problem in the world that the coronavirus pandemic has amplified or brought to the surface?
CJP-Biden. In Joe Biden's acceptance speech for the Democratic presidential nomination on Aug. 20 (Washington Post story), he promised that light would overcome our current darkness. He spoke directly to young people, noting the protests for racial justice, civil rights, gun control, and protecting the earth against climate change. “I hear their voices and if you listen, you can hear them, too,” Biden said. Is your voice being heard? Do you think there is light ahead?
John Lewis: Civil rights leader and longtime Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who died July 17, believed in "good trouble, necessary trouble" to fight injustice, create change, and "redeem the soul of America" through civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform. He believed that you are never too young to make positive change. Read John Lewis's final essay here. How can we keep Lewis's legacy alive?
BLM: Keeping up the momentum toward real change is the next challenge. Use the power of your words to push forward. [Challenge inspired by activist_fieldhockey]
SPECIAL CHALLENGES on COVID-19
(Read YWP's Social Distancing Journal!)
Covid-Times: In a photo or drawing, capture yourself and/or your family doing something that is unique to these times, something that you probably wouldn't do under "normal" circumstances. Or share a photo or sketch of something uniquely COVID that you've seen.
Reflect: Pandemic days are also a time for reflection - what is something you would like to see change in the world? How would you go about changing it?
Best: What is the best thing that has happened to you in this time in our homes during social distancing? Why is it the best?
Covid-Cartoon: Draw a cartoon that captures a funny, sad, or everyday moment or feeling that you think others could relate to as we all live through COVID-19 and social distancing.
Covid-School?: When schools reopen, we can expect changes in response to COVID-19. Masks? One-wall hallways? Alternate days in school and at home? What would you suggest for your school? Here's a Washington Post story to get you started.
Covid-Together: What is something that someone has done for you, or you have done for them, during these times that has made all the difference?
COVID-Issue: What is an issue or problem in the world that the coronavirus pandemic has amplified or brought to the surface?
Earth Day 2020: Take a moment to write, draw or photograph your gratitude for Mother Earth.
State Colleges: Blaming the pandemic as the last straw in its chronic budget problems, Vermont State Colleges announced April 17 that the Lyndon and Johnson campuses of Northern Vermont University and the Randolph campus of Vermont Technical College would close, cutting 500 jobs in the three communities. A public backlash has delayed a vote on the decision. Read the VTDigger story here. If you, a family member, or your community is affected, write about it.
Moment: Describe a small, impactful family moment that has occurred during social distancing. Would it have happened when life was "normal?" How did it make you feel?
COVID-Art: Add your photos, sketches, and paintings of life during the pandemic for YWP's Social Distancing Journal project! Address the coronavirus's impact from the everyday reality of social distancing to the things that bring you joy or help you take your mind off this strange time.
COVID19: The coronavirus (COVID-19) has seized the world, attacking our health, our economies, our everyday life. Write about this new invader and how it's changing our lives.
Spirit Lifters: Chelsea, VT, Marina2020's town, is spreading sunshine. JoToy is sending neighbors little handmade cards. If you or your community are doing a project to lift people's spirits during the pandemic, share the story here -- in photos or words or both!
Teacher Appreciation: Take a moment to reflect on the unprecedented challenges your teachers are facing during the pandemic as they must pivot to provide learning online -- while they're learning how to do it themselves. Write a poem of appreciation, share a funny anecdote, or show an example of why you're grateful for your teacher(s) Challenge suggested by Adelle M. Brunstad, YWP alumna.
CJP-Day: Document one day of your "social distancing" life in photos. Make a slideshow on your blog: Add Media > Advanced upload. Add words if you like.
CJP-Five: List five things you have discovered about yourself recently.
CJP-Miss: COVID-19 has taken away our regular routines. We miss alot of things. Many of them we took for granted. Sprouting from the poem, I miss...by E.B. Pointy-Pen, write about what you are missing.
PAST GENERAL NEWS CHALLENGES from 2019-20
LGBTQ-Ruling: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that you can't be fired for being gay or transgender. In the most impactful ruling for LGBTQ rights since same-sex marriage became a constitutional right in 2015, the court ruled 6-3 that workplace protections against sex discrimination also protect against bias toward sexual orientation and gender identity. Your thoughts?
Police: Would your community or school be safer or less safe if there were fewer police officers and that funding was diverted to more social services? Since George Floyd's death under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25, this is the debate around the nation including at tonight's (June 15) Burlington city council (virtual, 7 pm) meeting (VTDigger: Will Burlington slash its police budget?). What do you think?
BLM: Support for the Black Lives Matter movement has leaped forward since the death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25. In the past two weeks, US voters’ support for the movement increased almost as much as it had in the preceding two years, the New York Times reports ("Public Opinion Rarely Moves Fast, but It Has on Black Lives Matter," June 10, 2020). Write about this shift in thinking and what it says about where we are today and where we could be tomorrow.
Oppressed: "There are many horrors in American racial history but also some powerful inspiration," writes columnist Michael Gerson (Washington Post, June 8, 2020). "It is extraordinary that a group of people who came to our country in chains came to understand the essence of Christianity and the essence of our country far better than their oppressors. You might even call it providential. And this should lead to an enduring lesson: America often sees itself more clearly through the eyes of the harassed and oppressed." Write about this thought or simply consider its meaning.
George Floyd: The death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, MN on May 25, has sparked protests and vigils over his death and other racial incidents across the nation. Get your thoughts out! Write about it.
CJP-Kindness: Write about a kindness you have witnessed or heard about. What impact does it have? OR write about an act of kindness you would like to see or be part of.
CJP-Earth: Dear Mother Earth ... Write a letter that expresses your hopes and dreams for her.
CJP-Happy: The World Happiness Report, an annual survey that ranks 156 countries by their citizens' happiness, puts Finland first (2019 and 2018), followed by Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. The U.S. ranked 19th. Explore the report. What could we learn from the Nordic way of life?
CJP-Climate: Is anyone listening? Send an urgent message about climate change so people will sit up and pay attention.
CJP-Climate2: Think about your daily life. What is one thing you could start doing today to help ease climate change?
CJP-Message: Gun control measures will always hit a wall of opposition, as happened in Viriginia recently. But if you think gun control matters, speak out. What message would you send?
CJP-Trump's Words: The president’s rhetoric has changed the way hundreds of children are harassed in American classrooms, The Washington Post reports in an investigative piece published Feb. 13, 2020. Read the story, Trump’s words, bullied kids, scarred schools and respond! “It’s gotten way worse since Trump got elected,” the story quotes Ashanty Bonilla, 17, a Mexican American high school junior in Idaho who transferred schools because of bullying. “They hear it. They think it’s okay. The president says it. . . . Why can’t they?”
CJP-Forward: Skip forward 10 years. What is happening in 2030? In the world, America, or your community? Where do you fit into the picture?
CJP-If... In the context of America today in 2020, and your place in the world, begin a poem or story with the words, If I could ...
CJP-Minimum: Imagine that you are in charge of campaigning for a fair minimum wage. What hourly wage would you seek and how would you persuade people to support it?
CJP-Home: Write about your community. It could be a straight descriptive piece, a personal reflection, or an opinionated commentary. What do you like about it? What works; what doesn't? What would make you want to stay or leave?
CJP-Photo Essay1: Create a photo essay of your community. This could be a general collection of photos, or have a theme (front porches, town forest, main street, farmers' market, civic buildings, etc.). Along with the photos, write a short commentary that reflects the sense of place, what makes it unique or special to you. Remember to identify the photos.
CPJ-Immigrant: Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in an interview that Emma Lazarus’s words on the Statue of Liberty should read, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” If you could respond directly to Cuccinelli, what would you say?
CJP-Teens: What do adults get wrong about teenagers?
CJP-Photo Essay2: Create a photo essay of a specific place either in your community or your home that is meaningful to you. Along with the photos, write a short commentary that identifies the place and explains why it matters.
Voices for Change: Join YWP for a Climate Activism Workshop and Open Mic led by YWP Community Leaders Hazel Civalier and Sophie Dauerman and Poet Lizzy Fox. Thursday, Sept. 19, 6-8 PM at Burlington City Arts! It's free and leads up to the Friday, Sept. 20 Global Climate Strike.
CJP-Rural: Many of America's rural areas are struggling with such issues as economic decline and loss of population. Is this happening in your community? What can be done?
CJP-Vote: At what age should Americans be allowed to vote? A major political party in Canada, the New Democratic Party, supports lowering the voting age in federal elections to 16. In the U.S., this idea is also gaining some traction, including from U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts. What do you think of this idea? What are the benefits and risks?
CJP-Morrison: Toni Morrison, the first African-American woman to win the Nobel in Literature, once said, “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” Expand on Morrison's thought.
CJP-Interview1: Check out the Journalism 101 interviewing tips, choose a classmate, preferably someone you don't know well, and interview this person with the goal of writing a solid profile. Then ask the person to interview you. Use whatever tools you have to document and/or record the interview.
CJP-Social Justice: Write about a social justice issue that you are witnessing in the world right now. Describe it. If there is hope in solving it, share your ideas. If you think it's hopeless, share your thoughts on that, too. Bring your work to share at YWP's Social Justice writing workshop on Thursday, Oct. 24 at Burlington City Arts, 135 Church St., Burlington, 6-8 PM. More info and sign up here!
CJP-Arts Critic: Young Writers Project writers attend Kinetic Light's DESCENT at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 30 and write a 500-word (max) review of the show.
CJP-Homeless: There were more than 550,000 homeless people in the United States on a given night in 2018. Imagine yourself in that place, and write.
CJP-Guns: America has seen an alarming rise in mass shootings, but efforts at gun control frequently run into strong opposition. What is the way forward? Is there a way to break through this impasse?
CJP-Health: Is health care a human right, as many argue, or is it more of an individual responsibility that each person should figure out on their own?
CJP-Asylum: President Trump wants to repeal the asylum law, which allows immigrants to come to the United States, seek asylum, and wait for their case to be heard. Is he right? Or should the law stand?
CJP-Presidential: Which candidate for the November 2020 election are you most impressed with? Why?
CJP-Law: Is justice blind? What influences come into play in the justice system? How could the system be made more fair?
CJP-Where I Live: Take a moment to think about where you live. What makes it unique, special, feel like home? Maybe it could be better, but for this challenge, focus on what's good about it -- and write!
CJP-Impeachment: For only the fourth time in U.S. history, a president is facing impeachment. The charges are that President Trump abused his office in an attempt to get Ukraine to launch investigations into Trump's political opponent, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden, and that he obstructed Congress's investigation into the matter. Should the president be impeached? What do you hope for the outcome?
CJP-Greta: Greta Thunberg, 16, the Swedish environmental activist who has inspired people around the world to fight climate change, is Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2019, the youngest ever to receive the honor. If you're inspired, write a letter to Greta congratulating her and share your thoughts on climate change. Read the story in The Washington Post.
CJP-Night: In the book "Night," Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel writes about his experiences as a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps during the Second World War. Respond to Wiesel's story in words or images.
CJP-Iran: Qasem Soleimani, a top general in Iran, was killed by a US airstrike in Baghdad on Friday, Jan. 3. His successor has vowed retribution for his death. Crowds have flooded the streets to honor Soleimani and to protest against the US, which is sending additional troops to the Middle East. Read about this conflict. Write.
CJP-Bully: Write a letter to a bully and show how destructive/immature/negative this person's behavior is. Use words to rise above.
CJP-Student Debt: Student debt has become an issue in the presidential campaign. Some people say it is burdening an entire generation and needs to be written off by the government, but other people say it is just favoring people who already have the advantage of a college education. What do you think about this issue?
CJP-Society: Society's expectations can be overwhelming at times. What has been your experience? Any suggestions for lifting this weight?
CJP-MLK: Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sought to guide us to a more just America. Respond to Dr. King's message of love and equality as it relates to America in 2020: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." (Strength to Love, 1963)
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