By Jackie Majerus-Collins, Youth Journalism International, Auburn, Maine, USA
Youth Journalism International is quite possibly the best thing you’ve never heard of for young writers, artists and photographers – and the teachers who care about them.
This U.S.-based NGO teaches students all over the world about journalism, has published their work from all seven continents and runs an annual Excellence in Journalism contest open to any teenager, anywhere.
But it is so much more. The organization works hard to build bridges between young people of different cultures, nations, races, religions and other potential barriers.
Using journalism, YJI brings young people together to work in a peaceful, productive way. It makes the world a better place.
YJI, which operates on the generosity of donors, has never charged a student to participate, making the program accessible to many young people who could not otherwise afford it.
Part of YJI’s mission is to promote and defend a free youth press. Since 2010, YJI’s annual contest has highlighted the best in teen journalism around the world.
It is the only contest of its kind, open to teenage journalists and their teachers, wherever they are on the planet. Entries are easily submitted online.
There are five top categories: Student Journalist of the Year, Journalism Educator of the Year, Courage in Journalism and awards for the best newswriting and best commentary by a single individual. Winners of those five categories receive beautiful crystal trophies.
But the contest doesn’t stop there. It offers dozens more categories for reporting – whether in writing or in multi-media form – in news, features and sports. Other categories award the best in photography, illustrations and cartoons. Opinion writing – including reviews, columns and editorials – offer more chances to win.
There are custom award certificates for all first and second place as well as honorable mention designations.
An impressive panel of judges carefully reviews the entries and selects the winners.
Entries are due each February for work published in the previous calendar year. Work must be published in English and – with the exception of the category for the best teacher – contestants must be age 19 or under. Winners are announced each May to great acclaim.
A complete list of the rules and the biographies of the judges is on the YJI website, along with a complete list of winners and judges’ comments from each contest year.
Jackie Majerus and Steve Collins, two working newspaper reporters, founded YJI as a local club in the New England region of the U.S. in 1994. They occasionally published student work in a local newspaper.
Collins created a website in 1996. It did not take long before ambitious teenagers in faraway places began knocking on YJI’s virtual door, asking to write and be published.
After a few years, the duo incorporated YJI as an educational non-profit organization and eventually shifted all publishing to a strictly online format.
Working one-on-one with editors and in groups, students learn about writing, reporting techniques, press responsibility and ethics.
Reporting from their own neighborhoods, schools and hometowns, they cover everything from terrorism, teen suicide, school violence and politics to music, movies, sports and social issues. Reporting this year has focused heavily on the covid-19 pandemic, racism and the Black Lives Matter protests.
There is still a steady stream of young people eager to join YJI’s ranks knocking at our virtual door and flooding our social media accounts seeking admission. YJI is scrambling to bring in as many as it can.
YJI website readers are of all ages and span the globe, numbering more than one million people. The organization is also active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms. You can see what students and supporters say about their experience with YJI by checking out the reviews online at GreatNon-Profits.
YJI believes that the key to a better world lies with global understanding and a democratic, free press. By providing a platform for talented, idealistic and dedicated young people to let the world know not only what is happening but their views on it, YJI paves a way toward a brighter future for all.
You can get involved by connecting with YJI on social media or reaching out directly to Jackie Majerus, co-founder and executive director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jackie Majerus-Collins is an award-winning journalist and teacher, Jackie Majerus co-founded the educational non-profit Youth Journalism International in 1994. Based in the U.S., YJI has students around the globe. Jackie loves working with young journalists and providing them with a platform for their work so people worldwide can learn their stories. Jackie be contacted at email@example.com, website: youthjournalism.org.