Friday, June 29, 2012

Chess on the road

Cannon School's K-6 chess team has learned the game can be played anywhere - and is ideal for passing time.

While driving to compete in the chess Elementary Nationals, hosted by the U.S. Chess Federation in Nashville, the team hit a bit of traffic.

So what did they do with their time stuck on the interstate - they played chess of course. Teammates broke out boards and chess pieces and began to play what they call "blitz chess," or timed five-minute games, right on the asphalt of I-40.

Practice must have paid off because when the team finally made it to the competition, they placed sixth out of 49 teams from across the nation and first among North Carolina schools.

At the tournament, each of the following students played more than 20 hours of tournament chess during seven rounds, held over three days: Joshua Doolittle, a rising sixth grader from Huntersville; Grayson Herrera, a rising sixth grader from Harrisburg; Joseph Hurtado, a rising fifth grader from Concord; Dylan Kabasakalian, a rising third grader from Huntersville; Lucas Kabasakalian, a rising fifth grader from Huntersville; Owen Koehler, a rising third grader from Mooresville; Matthew Kroll, a rising third grader from Concord; Joshua Reid, a rising third grader from Concord; Mudiame Tokunboh, a rising sixth grader from Huntersville; and Rob Trufant, a rising fifth grader from Concord.

Lucas Kabasakalian placed 13th out of 292 players from around the country.

The team will continue to train and play over the summer at the Queen City Chess Association in uptown Charlotte.

Photo: Courtesy of David Long.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Traveling to a place where dreams really do come true

This week, we hear from two area teens selected from thousands across the nation to participate in Steve Harvey's Disney's Dreamers Academy in Orlando.

The program, held in March at the Walt Disney World Resort, aims to provide youth with the opportunity to learn how they can make their dreams come true.

During the four-day program, 100 high school students participated in career workshops and networked with professional mentors.

Savannah Barnwell, a rising sophomore at Myers Park High and Jerri Gaddie, a recent graduate at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, were two of the Charlotte-area teens selected for this year's experience.

"I think it's a life-changing experience," Jerri said of the program. 

While in Florida, the teens participated in "deep dive" sessions where they explored career options and learned how to achieve their career goals. Session topics are centered around entertainment, the medical field, entrepreneurship, culinary arts and Walt Disney Imagineering.

Teens also had the chance to hear career success stories from celebrities including Sean Kingston, Soledad O'Brien and Jordin Sparks.

The biggest lesson they learned: "Don't let anyone tell you that you can't because they will," Savannah said.

As for their futures, Jerri will attend Winston-Salem State University in the fall with plans to study physical therapy. Savannah said it is her goal to one day attend Duke University and become a doctor.

Photo: Savannah Barnwell at the Disney's Dreamers Academy. Photo courtesy of Savannah Barnwell.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Can you Google doodle?

Can you create the next Google doodle?

That’s the challenge the Internet search engine company posed to kids across the nation for this year’s Doodle 4 Google contest.

More than 114,000 hopeful youths, ages K-12, submitted drawings to the fifth annual contest that involves creatively interpreting the Google logo.

Google doodles often appear on the search engine’s home web page and reflect people, anniversaries, events or innovations.

For the state portion of the contest, The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art teamed up with Google to serve as the North Carolina exhibition site.

This year’s contest theme was “If I could travel in time, I’d visit...”

State finalists included Charlotte area student, Jacob Yim, 10, who entered in the fourth-fifth grade category with his drawing titled, “A Blast Back to 1969.”

In the eighth-ninth grade category, area student Charlotte Uleha, 14, was a finalist for her “Ancient Egypt” rendering.

This year’s doodles were judged by celebrity guest judges including Katy Perry, Phineas and Ferb creator/executive producer Jeff “Swampy” Marsh and American Idol finalist Jordin Sparks.

Community members can view a special exhibition of drawings by the 10 North Carolina finalists at the Bechtler café through September 30. Museum admission is not required to view the doodles.

Photos: The top photo is Charlotte Uleha's rendering, while the bottom photo is Jacob Yim's drawing. Photos courtesy of Pam Davis.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Young women awarded for excellence

Several decades ago, the Zetas of Charlotte Benevolent Foundation set out to honor promising young women in the area.

Each year, the foundation, which is a nonprofit geared toward service, scholarship and unity, selects three high school graduates to give the Sara Scott Schofield scholarship.

This year’s recipients include Karen Bent of David W. Bulter High School, Ayonna Richardson of Zebulon B. Vance High, and Elsie Okoh-Addo of IBCS Oylmpic High School.

Each scholarship winner will receive $500 for college.

Pictured: Karen Bent and Ayonna Richardson. Photo courtesy of Jessica Best.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hungry? Dine Out For Kids

Every bite counts on June 19 as community members have the opportunity to give back while they eat during the 13th annual Dine Out For Kids.

Communities In Schools (CIS), the nation's leading dropout prevention program, is hosting the fundraising event at several area restaurants. 

Eat out for breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of the more than 65 participating restaurants on Tuesday and the restaurant will donate a portion of the day's sales to CIS.

CIS-Charlotte serves more than 6,500 students, grades prekindergarten-12, in selected Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. 

For a complete list of participating restaurants, visit the Dine Out For Kids website

Friday, June 15, 2012

High test score leads to big recognition

For one Charlotte Christian School sixth grader, the skills needed to successfully take a test come naturally. 

Brandon Hay received a medallion for his composite score in the 99th percentile on the eighth grade Duke Talent Identification Program EXPLORE test.

The Duke TIP is a nonprofit organization that focuses on serving academically gifted youth.

Nationally, in January and February, 288 students out of 5,686 Duke TIP talent search participants received this honor. There were 49 honorees from North Carolina.

Brandon was honored at the 32nd annual DUKE TIP North Carolina State Recognition Ceremony on June 1, at Wake Forest University. Keynote speaker at the event was Hugh Howards, professor of mathematics at Wake Forest.

Photo: Brandon Hay. Courtesy of Lynn Shelton-Hay.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cannon School students win Lions contest

In an effort to artistically craft the idea of peace, four Cannon School seventh graders took top local honors in the annual Lions Club Peace Poster Contest.

Participants were asked to design a poster that portrayed this year's theme: "Children Know Peace." Each of their entries were judged for artistic merit, originality and theme portrayal.

A poster created by Cami Lee won first prize, while artwork by Rose Edmondson and Zach Olguin placed second and third. Tyler Turner received an honorable mention.

Across the globe, more than 200 countries sponsor the Lions International Peace Poster Contest in local schools and youth groups. In those countries, 325,000 students ages 11-13 participate.

Winners from the local levels advance to the district level, where they compete to move on to state and international levels.

Once at the international level, judges select a grand prize poster winner and 23 merit award winners. The grand prize winner will receive a trip to an awards ceremony at Lions Day with the United Nations, held at UN headquarters in New York City.

They will also be granted an engraved plaque and a $2,500 cash prize.

Photo: Lions Club Peace Poster Chair Bob Aldous (left), Tyler Turner (Honorable Mention), Zack Olguin (3rd place), Rose Edmondson (2nd place), Cami Lee (1st place) and Lions Club President George Culp.Courtesy of David Long.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sports cards help to uplift children

This week, we get advice from Mitchell Kennedy, a ninth grader at West Forsyth High School, who created a charity called Sports Cards for Kids. The charity aims to provides children at Levine and Brenner Children's Hospitals, and Boys & Girls Clubs with sports cards.

When did you first create Sports Cards for Kids? I created Sports Cards for Kids in October 2011. I had some extra cards and told my mom to give them to someone she knew that did not have a lot and she told me one day that the child that got them still had one of the cards by his bedside. So I thought that I could make this a big thing and give cards to a lot of kids.

Why sports cards? Actually the kids like football and basketball cards the best...I know that kids love sports of all kinds and they love to get a card of their favorite player and to collect cards of their favorite teams.

How many cards have you donated to Levine and Brenner Children's Hospitals? I have donated about 1,400 cards to those hospitals, but I have donated about 12,000 cards to the Boys & Girls Club on my monthly trips. I have contacted Duke and Chapel Hill hospitals and have plans for making trips there this summer.

How can people in the community donate to your cause? The community can donate cards or money. Sports Cards for Kids is an official 501(c)(3) charity and can provide tax deductions.

What has been most rewarding for you while working on this project? The most rewarding thing is seeing the reaction on the kids' faces and being able to make them very happy.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned? That you should always try and give back to your community. Also, if you have managed to make one child smile then your day was a success.

What is your fondest memory of donating cards? Two of my best stories are when I gave this kid a card autographed by Armanti Edwards he took the cards back to his desk and said "Does anyone want to trade?" Almost every kid around him said yes and he responded with "Psych!" The other one is when I gave a child a card that contained a piece of game-used jersey. I left the room and came back 10 minutes later and he still had the card in his hand feeling the piece of jersey.

Learn more about Sports Cards for Kids at Facebook.
Photo: Mitchell Kennedy (blue shirt) passes out sports cards to children at the Ken Carlson Boys & Girls Club. Photo courtesy of Mitchell Kennedy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Brushing up on German pays off

This week, we get advice from Alekhya Mallavarapu, a senior at David W. Butler High, who is fascinated with language. She is also quite good at it – taking the national German III exam three times and testing in the top 10 percent of the nation each time. Because she excels in German, Alekhya has been selected as a recipient of the 2012 American Association of Teachers of German Endowment Fund Scholarship to participate in the AATG German Summer Study Program. Alekhya is also an officer in Butler’s German club.

Q: Favorite German phrase?
“Reden ist Silber, Schweigen ist Gold.” The English equivalent would be “Silence is golden.” The literal translation of the phrase is “Speaking is silver, but silence is golden.”

Q: Any concerns about studying abroad?
I’m vegetarian ... and I’m a picky eater, so when I go over there I will have to adapt.

Q: To be considered wise, what must you know?
In my book, a wise person is someone who is tolerant, someone who can weigh all perspectives before making a decision and someone who knows how to exercise silence when necessary.

Q: Aside from language, what are your other hobbies?
I also have been dancing an Indian classical dance style called Bharatha Natyam for 10 years, as well as practicing an Indian classical music style called Carnatik.

Q: What has been the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome?
Balancing two cultures has been the greatest obstacle I have had to overcome and am actually still overcoming. Sometimes the aspects of a traditional Indian culture that I grew up in clash with modernized culture. It only requires more patience on my part to understand the differences and come up with a balance, which actually gives me a chance to expand my knowledge on both.

Q: How often do you travel to India to see your grandparents?
I try to go every summer.

Q: What’s one thing worth remembering in tough times?
There are many that love you, cherish you and wait to hear from you.

Q: When you’re tired and don’t want to work anymore, how do you get yourself to keep going? I take a break, indulge myself in things I enjoy and get back to work. Sometimes taking a little time off to listen to your favorite band or watch your favorite show or even eat your favorite food rejuvenates you and keeps you going. Knowing I want to further my interest in a subject also helps; if I can get through this step of the work, then I’ll be able to learn even more about the subject.

Q: How can youth be successful?
First and foremost, a person has to try, at school, at work, at home. Giving up is very easy to do, trying makes people notice you.

Q: What are three things everyone should always have with them? 1. Favorite snack food - you never know when the stomach will start growling! 2. Pen - there are many things you can come across and may need to write down (i.e. contact numbers, due dates). Where to write it down? Use your imagination! 3. Picture of loved ones - when they cannot be with you in person, knowing they are with you in spirit helps.  

Q:What is a fun fact about yourself others may not know?
I listen to music in all sorts of languages. Many think it is odd to listen to music that I cannot understand, but in this technological world, it is fairly simple to look up a translation. However, many times I end up listening to various music because I love the tune of the song or the voice of the singer. Music is music; language is not a barrier for me!

Q: Favorite band?
My favorite band is a Korean boy band called Super Junior.

Q: What are your future plans?
I plan to finish off the school year with good grades and then proceed to do well in college. I am hoping to explore many opportunities and interests at college that will point me in the direction of my intended major. I plan to continue studying German in college, alongside other foreign languages.

Photo: Alekhya Mallavarapu (center) with her German class at Butler High. Photo courtesy of Alekhya Mallavarapu.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Kids Convention 2012

Calling all kids who want to get involved in youth civic education - or want to learn more about the DNC.

The Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee will be hosting Kids Convention 2012 at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at the EpiCentre, 210 East Trade Street.

The event will last until 3 p.m. and feature an appearance by Mayor Anthony Foxx. Participants, grades kindergarten through eighth, will have the opportunity to learn more about civic education and the upcoming Democratic National Convention, while also seeing youth entertainment acts.

The EpiCentre and GenerationNation, formerly known as Kids Voting, are helping to put on the community event.

To attend, individuals are also asked to help give back to the community and donate a school supply.

For more information: Visit Charlotte in 2012.

Reaching out to South Sudan

This week, we hear from Erica Stackhouse, 17, a junior at West Mecklenburg High. Erica is a part of Mothering Across Continents, an organization that focuses on taking grass-roots ideas and implementing them on a world-wide level.

Students from 10 area high schools are partnering with Charlotte-based MAC and are currently working on “Rasing South Sudan,” an education project to help build/establish schools in South Sudan. Schools held fundraisers such as walks, baseball games and benefit concerts during the year to help fund the project.

Erica on Mothering Across Continents:

Working with MAC has been such a great experience for me. I was inspired just by the fact that I would be making a difference in somewhere that really needed it. Too many people these days take what they have for granted and don't realize how lucky they are.

The most challenging thing about Students Raising South Sudan was, for me, getting the baseball game planned. It took so much energy to make sure everything ran smoothly, but was well worth it!

My motivation for this project was always that I get to help create a better life for kids, but I became EXTREMELY motivated after meeting Lubo and Nathaniel, two of the Lost Boys, and getting to hear their own personal stories of South Sudan and what's going on there. They were truly an inspiration and they touched my heart in a way that they will never understand.

To kids who are hesitant to get involved, always remember to be the change you want to see. The most rewarding thing about this project was knowing that because of our efforts, children in South Sudan will now be able to attend school and have the supplies they need.

The children in America often take education for granted and don't ever stop to think about the fact that there are children around the world that would love to have an ounce of what they have. To be able to provide that for children is just so reassuring, it lets me know that if you really set your mind to something that it can happen.

My motto is to take a leap of faith to get what you want, but remember that a soft landing is never guaranteed.

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