Talking about my generation!

EpicTeen Posts

Algerian Teens Come to Reno

Enjoying the Aces game with Yousra, who is from Algiers

Enjoying the Aces game with Yousra, who is from Algiers

 

Since I was in 6th grade, our family has hosted an Algerian high school student for two weeks through the Algerian Youth Leadership Program. It’s by far the highlight of every summer, and I’ve come to anticipate the event months in advance. I always meet the coolest people and learn more about their culture every year.

This year, we hosted a 16 year old girl named Yousra. She was from Algiers, the large industrial capital of Algeria. She spoke French, Arabic, English, and even Japanese- she loves anime and manga. In many cultures, including hers, dogs are seen as dirty animals and are definitely not kept as pets. After one day with our border collie, Lily, you would never have thought that Yousra had been afraid of dogs. She’d never seen a frisbee before, but by the end of the week she would throw it for the dog for hours at a time.

We took her to a baseball game, her first American sporting event. We asked her if she understood what was happening and she said, “Nope. I just clap whenever everyone claps!” She had so much fun, and it was an amazing feeling to introduce her to little facets of our culture, just like she introduced me to hers.

She brought henna and we gave ourselves matching “tattoos”, showed me the French and Arabic pop music that everyone in Algeria was listening to, and helped me with my French pronunciation. I miss her a lot, but social media allows us to keep in touch, just as I’ve kept in touch with all the previous students that have stayed with us!

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Music=Life

The other day my mom asked me why I liked music so much. Five times, because I couldn’t hear her over the very thing blasting through my earbuds. I unplugged and tried to explain. For me, music is a way to express myself, both by listening to it and making it. Plus I love the band members themselves. They’re inspiring to me, and I look up to them a lot. My favorite band is Green Day, and I listen to others like All Time Low, Pierce the Veil, Of Mice&Men, Panic! at the Disco, and of course…The Beatles.

Brendon Urie, of Panic!,  is particularly inspiring to me, because as a teenager he worked at a smoothie cafe to make enough money to pay the rent for his band’s practice space. He also grew up in Nevada, like me, so I can definitely relate. Green Day is another example. Who knew that three kids from Berkeley, California would grow up to become one of the biggest and most successful bands ever? Their stories give me hope for my own future, having proved that if you really put your mind to it you can accomplish anything.

I also like to play a lot of the same type of music on guitar, which I’ve taught myself to play since sixth grade. Oh, and concerts are the coolest thing ever. I saw Green Day live this year and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Seeing your favorite band that you’ve idolized since who knows when, right in front of you, is one of the most amazing.  Music is one of the most important things in my life, because of it’s therapeutic yet stimulating effects it has on me and countless other teens. (For example, playing my guitar to unwind after a long day of studying.)

In grown up speak, according to Psychology Today, “Music also plays a large role during this time period as teenagers generation after generation identify with artists and musical styles that reflect their identity as individuals and as a generation.” And “Parents across the decades lament the types of music their children listened to. In the last 100 years, it was jazz, then big band, rock n’ roll, funk, electonic music, rap, and hip-hop. Generation after generation, parents have complained about the “noise” their children listen to, refusing to understand or listening to ‘that music.’” My parents aren’t necessarily on board with the whole punk rock boy band thing, but sometimes I’ll play guitar with my dad and try to bridge said generational gap.

Overall, I love music because I can totally identify with the things that these artists sing about, and it’s nice when you can completely just jam out at the same time because of how good the song is.

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Mohegan Sun Arena 2013

Took this pic of Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Mohegan Sun Arena 2013


Malala Day Interview

I went to Malala Day at the United Nations as one of 500 youth delegates, and was interviewed afterwards. It was a privilege to be able to add my voice to Malala’s cause.

 


An Epic Teen with an Epic Story: Malala Day, 2013

Gaping at the line of about 50 people in front of us stretching across the front gate of the United Nations Building, my mom and I were starting to wonder if we were ever going to get in. We had been there since 7:30 in the morning, and even though the gates were said to be opened at 8:00, the never ending line was not moving. About a dozen NYPD cars were parked nearby, and even more news vans with satellite dishes were lined up next to them. Why so much press and security on a day when the United Nations wasn’t even in session? The answer is simple: one Pakistani teenager. But this was no normal Pakistani teenager. This one happened to be Malala Yousafzai, the 16 year old girl who was shot by the Taliban for trying to promote women’s education. She suffered a gunshot in the left side of her forehead but because of the expertise of British and Pakistani doctors she survived, and today was the first time she was going to publicly address the event. However, her live audience, apart from the millions of people watching on the news or listening on the radio, was going to be composed of youth from around the globe. Youth delegates from the age of 15 to 25 had flocked to New York City for the first “youth takeover” of the United Nations in history. So yes, the long wait was definitely worth it.

Once we finally made it past the security at the front gate, acquired special badges for the event, and went through a security screening we finally entered the complex. Unfortunately, the General Assembly Hall was undergoing renovations and was closed, so the event was instead being held in the UN Trusteeship Council Hall. My mom wasn’t allowed to sit with me because she technically wasn’t a “youth” delegate, so she went up into the wings with the other media workers. I was able to find a seat on the floor of the hall, about five or six rows from the podium and panel of seats with electronic nameplates for Gordon Brown, the former prime minister of England, Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Vuk Jeremic, the president of the General Assembly, and most importantly, Malala. Soon, the voices of teenagers from all corners of the globe began to fill the hall, the buzz of excitement and anticipation echoing off of the high, arching walls.

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Youth delegates from around the world gathered at the United Nations to celebrate Malala Yousafzai’s 16th birthday and hear her speak.

However, it only took Gordon Brown finally standing up and walking to the podium to silence the seemingly untamable din. A hush fell over the hundreds of students sitting in the room, and he began to speak, introducing the start of the program and telling Malala’s story. And most importantly, he wished her happy birthday. It was because of this the event was held on that specific day. There were a few more speeches by the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly, and then finally, Malala stood. The entire room erupted into applause before she even reached the podium. By the time she did reach it, every person was on their feet. She had to wait a few minutes to even start speaking because of how enthusiastic the crowd of delegates was. But it was when she finally started speaking that the room got quieter than before. I could tell that every student, including myself, was sitting on the edge of their seat, hanging onto her every word.

Her speech was phenomenal. Her words were inspiring and she delivered them with the power and conviction of someone that is willing to sacrifice anything for what they believe, which she already had. She had known the dangers of speaking out against the Taliban, of openly protesting the lack of a right for women to go to school, yet she still went to school, still blogged and protested in the streets, and it had almost cost her own life. Yet it didn’t.

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Malala Yousafzai spoke on her 16th birthday on behalf of millions of children who wish to go to school. Photo by Amanda Gallop

“On the night of October 2012 the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought the bullet would silence us, but they failed.” The Taliban indeed failed, for she was speaking that day, stronger and more passionate than ever. Her speech was directed at us, the young leaders of the world, but also the current leaders of the world at the United Nations. It is her goal to raise enough money to put all the children who aren’t granted an education in school by 2015, and efforts are currently underway to make this dream a reality.

Hearing her speak was honestly one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. This girl, who has been through so much, is only a few months older than I am, and she really inspired me to try to make a difference in the world myself, proving that teenagers are definitely capable of achieving anything that they set their minds to.

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Me being interviewed for television on Malala Day at the United Nations

 


Photographing My First Professional Baseball Game

Taking photos at field level at the Reno Aces game and learning something new.

Taking photos at field level at the Reno Aces game and learning something new.

I got a chance to work with a professional photographer at the Reno Aces Ballpark.  David Calvert was kind enough to not only show me the ropes, but also took this shot of me using one of his awesome cameras.  If you can find someone doing a job that interests you, take the chance to talk to them and just ask if you can shadow them.  It was Epic!


Teenage Twins Work Together to Give Back

Konner and Tera Robison are teenage twins who enjoy giving back to their community

Konner and Tera Robison are teenage twins who enjoy giving back to their community

Konner and Tera Robison, are twins, but instead of competing with each other both have taken the opportunity to give back to their community in huge ways. 17 year-old Konner Robison was just named High School Volunteer of the Year for Nevada in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, the nation’s largest program honoring high school and middle school volunteers. A junior at Sage Ridge School in Reno, Konner created a fund that provides grants to local schools so they can buy calculators and other technology for kids who can’t afford them.

“One of the girls in my freshman class didn’t have a calculator that she needed and I was pretty struck that at our school there are students who can’t afford technology,” Konner said. So he decided to do something about it and set up the Scholastic Gateway Fund. He could have piggybacked on many other charities, but wanted something new. He told me the biggest challenge he faced was starting his program completely from scratch. “I had to start everything, I had to write the bylaws, make a logo, I had to go out and raise money, that was definitely a hard part.”

He met with potential donors and visited schools to find out what they needed. Konner has raised tens of thousands of dollars, and delivered his first grant in September to a public high school so that it could make advanced graphing calculators available to every student who needs one. Tera, his twin sister, has also been very busy helping others. She heads up a one-of-a-kind Big Brothers Big Sisters program at Sage Ridge School. It’s the only program where the high school students visit schools and eat lunch with their little brother or sister. “A lot of times with all these kids around they kind of get lost in the shuffle,” said Tera. “And it’s just really rewarding to know that there’s someone there looking out for them.” She told me that she gets as much as she gives with this experience. “When I was younger, I was shy and had low self-confidence. I wanted to be able to help someone who struggled with those same things,” Tera said. “I just wanted to make a difference.”

Together, these twins make a dream team of community service in Northern Nevada. I’ve known Tera and Konner for four years and I never realized as I walked past them in the hall every day how much they do for others. Being twins makes this whole experience even better for them. “It’s like having a built in best friend,” Tera says appreciatively. Konner hopes being recognized with a national award will bring more attention to his non-profit, and that will mean more calculators for kids who need them.