Friday, July 27, 2012

National Poetry Slam comes to uptown Charlotte

Teams from across North America will travel to Charlotte for a five-day battle for a national title. 

The 2012 National Poetry Slam will kick off Aug. 7 at various Blumenthal Performing Arts' theaters. During the slam, 72 teams will compete in three days of preliminaries and 20 teams will advance to semi-finals on the night of Aug. 10.

The competition will culminate in a clash of the top four teams on the final stage Aug. 11, to determine the winner. 

This will be the event’s first time in Charlotte, but it is expected to draw in more than 5,000 attendees. Proceeds from the event will benefit organizations such as Poetry Slam, Inc., Blumenthal Performing Arts and SlamCharlotte. 

For more information, visit the National Poetry Slam online, or call 704-777-3368.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Teen Health Connection sets up at Vans Warped Tour

Teen Health Connection will take their advice to the streets as they set up at the 2012 Vans Warped Tour.

Among a line up of bands at Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre on July 30, Teen Health Connection will be providing health information to the 16,000 teens at the event, said Rett Liles, with the organization.

The teens will be handing out sunscreen, wrist-bands and decal stickers at the event. They will also be launching a health text messaging campaign. Each month the group will be sending health information to teens and adults via text messages.

"(We)are excited to reach many teens at the Warped Tour," Liles said. "Teens are always on their phones, so we feel like this will be a great way to get some positive health information to them."

The messages will include health and safety information that relates to a particular topic of the month. July is "Summer Safety Month," so teens will be sending messages about sunscreen and healthy hydration. August is "Back to School," so messages will be about getting enough sleep, immunizations and physicals.

For more information, check out Teen Health Connection online.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Teens back from Jimmy Awards in NYC

In May, Young Achievers profiled two young performers honored at the inaugural Blumey Awards at the Belk Theater in uptown Charlotte. 

The 2012 Blumenthal Performing Arts High School Musical Theater Awards ceremony honored high school entertainers in 13 categories, including Best Musical and Best Actor and Actress. 

Kyle Conroy, a senior at Jay M. Robinson High, was named best actor for his performance as Seymour in the school’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Taylor Neal, a sophomore at Cuthbertson High, won best actress as Belle in “Beauty and the Beast.” 

Because of their win on a regional level, the two traveled to the National High School Musical Theater Awards, also known as the Jimmys, this month for a one-week, all-expenses-paid trip to New York. 

Today, we will hear from Taylor about how the trip to NYC and what the teens experienced. 

From Taylor: 
"From the moment all 60 of us arrived (in New York City), we were rehearsing and meeting so many talented performers. Each day, we woke up at around 7 a.m. to walk to Tisch (School of the Arts) and begin learning our medleys, opening and closing numbers, and lots of choreography. 

I was very nervous about the whole process, but I loved every second that I was there. "I learned so much, especially from my vocal coach, Michael McElroy. He was in RENT on Broadway and was also nominated for a Tony. He was so helpful and gave me so many future audition tips. 

"The best piece of advice he gave me was that when you are expressing yourself while singing, the vowels in the words are how you feel and the consonance are the actions. I thought that was absolutely brilliant. 

"The most memorable part for me was when we arrived at the Minskoff Theatre. The second I stepped on that stage, I felt so overwhelmed with emotions. It hit me that I was going to be performing with the most talented group of young actors I've ever met and I just felt completely blessed. Not many people get to perform on a Broadway stage, so I just feel like the luckiest actress in the world. 

"Saying goodbye to everyone I met there was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. Each person there was so supportive of the winners and we all became a big, happy family. 

"Luckily, I keep in contact with all of them on Facebook so we all stay connected. Lastly I'll talk about being filmed by PBS the whole week. At first, I was a little intimidated by the fact that they would film our every move while rehearsing and performing, but I didn't notice them after a while. They filmed the whole experience of the Jimmy Awards and everyone will be able to watch the three-part documentary on PBS called, 'Broadway or Bust.' 

"The first episode will air at prime time on Sept. 9, and I am so excited to see it. It was such an incredible and life-changing experience that I can't wait for others to watch. I really hope that 'Broadway or Bust' inspires young performers all around the country to keep performing, just like it did for me." 

Photo: (Center) Taylor Neal performing at the Jimmy Awards in New York City. Photo courtesy of Linda Neal.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Teens earn summer jobs

Youth Development Initiatives’s LIFT Employment and Academic enrichment Program (LEAP) is putting 29 teens to work this summer.

Teens in the program, ages 14-17, are placed in several businesses throughout Charlotte where they are employed as retail clerks, dry cleaning attendants, maintenance assistants and day camp workers.

The mission behind the program is provide the education and training necessary to get ahead in the workforce.

Teens in LEAP begin during the school year by participating in YDI’s LIFT Life skills Academy. The Academy is a semester-long afterschool program that aims to inspire disadvantaged and/or struggling students to stay in school, improve their grades, maintain attendance, establish good behavior and make wise decisions.

Participants in LIFT are referred by juvenile court counselors and school resource officers. LIFT is primarily funded by the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

LIFT uses a Career and Technical Education-formatted curriculum, called the Life Management Guidance Course, to help students match career options to their personality and interests.  

During the program, students must also attend weekly math and literacy instruction on Fridays throughout the summer to keep their jobs.

(Top)16-year-old Ja’Shari Billups, of Turning Point Academy, works as an attendant at Sunrise Dry Cleaners off Albemarle Road, where he sorts and tags clothing items dropped off by customers.

(Bottom) 15-year-old LIFT participant Jeneha Townes, of Myers Park High, has a job at a consignment shop located on Pecan Avenue.

Photos courtesy of Darryl Bego, President of Youth Development Initiatives.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cuthbertson High student tests tech skills

Rachel Velasco, a student at Cuthbertson High, is being recognized nationally for her skills in Microsoft Office.

Rachel was recently named one of six top finalists in the United States competition on Microsoft Office.

In the competition, presented by Certiport, Inc., students tested their skills on Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint. From August 2011 to May 2012, more than 250,000 students in the U.S. competed to demonstrate their proficiency in the applications. 

Students with the highest exam scores and lowest exam-taking times were invited to represent their countries at upcoming World Championships.

At the World Championship, each student will compete for World Champion in his or her category (Microsoft Word 2007, Microsoft Word 2010, Microsoft Excel 2007, Microsoft Excel 2010, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007).

Rachel will go on to compete at the Worldwide Competition on Microsoft Office July 29-Aug. 1 in Las Vegas.

Learn more about the competition at

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

National Merit Scholars announced

In the fall, several area graduates will be attending universities across the nation as National Merit Scholars.

These recipients join 8,100 high school graduates from across the country being recognized as a national winner. Each college-sponsored award provides between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study.

Charlotte area recipients include: Ryan Potocnik of Charlotte Christian School, attending Auburn University; John Cambern of Providence Day School, attending Vanderbilt University; Evan Gold of Providence Day School, attending Hampshire College; Hadley Wilson of Charlotte Latin, attending Vanderbilt University; Paulina Campbell of Woodlawn School, attending Grinnell College; Natalie Sanchez of Gaston Day School, attending Indiana University Bloomington; Andrew Goins of Weddington High, attending UNC Chapel Hill; Megan McGuire of Porter Ridge High, attending Vanderbilt University; and David Hawisher of Ardrey Kell High, attending UNC Chapel Hill.

In addition to college-sponsored awards, two other types of National Merit scholarships were offered. Those include 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships, for which all finalists competed, and more than 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit scholarship awards for finalists who met specific criteria designated by their grantor organizations.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Off to Governor's School

Twenty-one students from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are among 550 high school students selected to attend North Carolina Governor’s School this summer. The five-week session goes through July 21 on the campus of Meredith College in Raleigh. The school is the oldest statewide summer residential program for academically and intellectually gifted high school students in the nation.

 Ardrey Kell students: Seok-Jin Hong and Soonmin Hwang, Instrumental Music (clarinet and cello, respectively); Rosa Park, Math. Butler: Kaitlyn Baker, Social Science; Dang Pham, Math. Hough: Craig Amasya, Social Science; John Buffum, Natural Science; Eileen Jakeway and Mary Schwalbe, French. Myers Park: Poulumi Banerjee, Sona Kumar and Apourva Thatavarty, Natural Science; Douglas Barnes, Art; Sydney Feinglass, French; Conner Kearse, Theater; Yeonsoo Lee, Social Science. Northwest School of the Arts: Kathryn Guild, Choral. Providence: Brinda Bhaskar, Natural Science; Halley Freger, Social Science; Erich Jegier, Math. South Mecklenburg: Sarah Peters, Math. Among others selected from

Charlotte-area schools: Cannon School: Barclay Sparrow, English; Sam Workman, Natural Science. Charlotte Catholic: Lauren Nahouraii, Social Science. Charlotte Country Day: Matthew Harden, Social Science; Alexander Kim, Instrumental Music; Eryn Ratcliffe, Art. Charlotte Latin: David Farrow, Social Science; Katherine Mayopoulos, Theater; Alexandra Ozmeral, Dance; Leora Sharma, Choral Music; Constance Zhou, Natural Science. Covenant Day School: Ian Johnson, Math. Mooresville High: Kathryn Elkin, Math; Gina Marchitell, Instrumental Music.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

Those looking for things to do this Independence Day need look no further. Here are a few suggestions of events going on in the Charlotte area:

Uptown- Shriners International 4th of July Parade at 2:30 p.m. in uptown Charlotte. This free event will be filled with marching bands, clowns and tiny cars. 

Indian Trail - Festivities begin today at 9:30 a.m. at Indian Trail Town Hall and the parade begins at 11 a.m. 

Birkdale Village and the Town of Huntersville will host the 8th Annual 4th of July Celebration today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Birkdale Village. Activities include bike decorating, face painting, a clown bounce,arts and crafts, a parade, water fight between the fire stations, music and food. 

Uptown- After a long day of parade watching, take a seat uptown for the annual firework show over the skyline. Center City Charlotte and Presbyterian Hospital will host the firework show in uptown Charlotte from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Fireworks will begin around 9:30 p.m. 

Whitewater Center- Live music will start off the afternoon at 4 p.m. and fireworks will begin at dark. Guests can watch fireworks being launched from Hawk Island and the show will display over our whitewater river. 

Lake Wylie- Fireworks at Lake Wylie near the Buster Boyd Bridge will begin around 9:45 p.m.

Photo:7/4/2005 - Fourth of July fireworks light the sky above the uptown Charlotte skyline. GARY O'BRIEN