COMMUNITY JOURNALISM PROJECT CHALLENGES 2020-21
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]
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.
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-Climate: Is anyone listening? Send an urgent message about climate change so people will sit up and pay attention. (Also in March 2020 challenges)
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)