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April 2011 Archives

Meet tween musical theatre star Josie Carr-Harris
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Thumbnail image for Изображение 991.jpgImagine having a successful professional career singing, acting, and dancing on stages from the U.S. all the way to Russia...when you are just 11 years old! That's what it's like to be Josie Carr-Harris, who is half-Russian and half-Canadian, and all the way talented. A couple of her YouTube singing videos caught the attention of an American TV producer, and Josie recently appeared on Lifetime's "Seriously Talented Kids" with Heidi Klum, so Josie seems like someone to watch.

We thought it was cool to chat with a tween who's not only gifted with an astonishing singing voice, but also has such an interesting range of experiences under her belt. 

IML: Tell us a little about how you got started performing. How old were you? When did you know it was something you wanted to pursue seriously?

Josie: In my first performance, I had a very small part in a ballet, Sleeping Beauty, staged by my ballet school in Toronto. I was 4, I guess. The next year I had a bigger part, and a few years later, I received my first award at a Film and Arts Festival in Sochi, Russia.  But it was probably at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) in Los Angeles two years ago when I met so many talented kids from around the world that I really decided that performing (singing and acting) was something that I was going to start working at really seriously.

IML: What do you like about performing opera?

Josie: Singing in a classical style takes much more work and training than pop music and I enjoy working at my singing. It is also really great to be able to act through singing, like in musicals, and maybe musicals are more fun, but opera is so much, more classy for me.

IML: Most pre-teens don't know much about opera, or just think it's boring stuff for old people. What would you like other kids to know about this art form?

Josie: In Russia they have really great cartoons based on operas, and I know them better than real operas. My dad showed me some amazing parts of operas from American cartoons too. Yes, really, "Tom and Jerry" and Woody the Woodpecker singing real opera! (that you can find on YouTube) and they are really fun.  Kids would not think of them as boring.

IML: Do you have a favorite role that you've played?

Josie: I played a spoiled and fussy blonde girl in the movie "Rorrim Bo and the Magic Goblet", a Russian feature to be released later this year. It is so much fun playing a character that says and does everything that you can't get away with in real life. At least not with my parents!

IML: What was the most challenging role you've had?

Josie: My most challenging role is "Young Luiza" in the musical "Zorro". First of all it is a huge production and we have sold-out audiences eight times a week in a 2000 person theater. The rehearsals were in August and September, and I had to learn flamenco dancing, and the flamenco style of singing "cante jondo."  Then for the rehearsals, (and for the previews and then the premiere), I was there every day and played every performance. After the premiere, three other girls started to share this role with me, but with eight performances a week and extra matinees over holidays, even four of us is not enough.  

IML: You perform a lot in Russia -- do you live there? Or just spend a lot of time there because of your family?

Josie: Right now I am living in Moscow and go to the Moscow Musical Theater School for Young Actors, as well as regular Russian school. Moscow is a great place to study singing and theater. But I have had to go to the US twice in the last two months, and Moscow is a little far away for that!

IML: What have you noticed about different cultures and audiences from spending time in different countries?

Josie: I have been on stage or on TV shows in Russia and Central Europe, Paris, New York and Los Angeles. People and audiences are a little different everywhere you go, but I think it's possible to "connect" with any audience. When I sing opera it is usually in a language that the audience doesn't understand, but when you connect with the audience it's really a great feeling.

IML: Thanks, Josie, and good luck with everything!

Josie:
Thanks!

Take a look at this video of Josie performing in an opera production. Okay, so you have no idea what she's saying...but it's fun to figure it out based on the beautiful singing and her body language.






Surfing champ Lakey Peterson talks about wet stuff
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Many of us are used to being able to get as much water as we need, whenever we need it. Wanna take a bath? Just turn on the tap! Feed the lawn? Simply grab a hose. But that won't always be the case. In fact, by the year 2013, 36 U.S. states are expected to face serious water shortages. 2013...that's two years away! Gulp! We're getting thirsty just thinking about that.

lakey.jpgHere at IML we've already talked about the importance of water conservation, and how you can help, in our Green Living section. A new campaign called Save Water Today is doing the same thing with videos starring celebrities offering easy advice on how to be water-wise. 16-year-old surfer Lakey Peterson is part of this campaign...actually, she's more than just a surfer; she's an amazing, boundary-shattering athlete and passionate environmentalist. Recently, Lakey shared with us her thoughts on the water issue as well as her upcoming Nike women's surf film, "Leave A Message." 

IML: How did you get involved with the Save Water Today campaign?

 
Lakey:  Since I'm the spokesperson for the Student Conservation Association, they felt I was the perfect person to speak to youth about saving water.  I was super excited to spread awareness about water conservation!
 
IML: What have you learned about water conservation?
 
Lakey: I learned that not only is it more important than everyone thinks it is, it's also actually much easier to prevent water waste than you'd think. It takes so little effort to make so much of a difference!
 
IML: Why do you think young people need to educate themselves about this issue?
 
Lakey: As kids, we're the best hope for being able to save the environment before it's too late. We have a chance to learn from both the positive things and mistakes made by older generations and really make the world a better place to live in!
 
IML: Okay, so what are the top 2 or 3 things we can do every day to conserve water?
 
Lakey: (1) Make all your showers 5 minutes or less. (2) Don't let water run in the sink, even if it's just a little drip. (3) Keep the water off when you're brushing your teeth. That seems small but it saves 3 gallons a day!
 
IML: How can kids get their parents and other adults around them to get with the program?
 
Lakey: It's pretty easy. Whenever you get a flyer or a program or something like that about saving water (or whenever you see one of our Save Water Today ads), just be sure to show it to your parents, and hopefully they'll get that you're serious about it, and it's something to really pay attention to. And whenever you see them wasting water, call them out on it...but be nice!
 
IML: Tell us about "Leave A Message" -- what were the highlights of shooting the film?
 
Lakey: It was AMAZING! I've never been on camera for such a long period of time before, so initially I didn't know what to expect, but it was awesome to travel around the world with all my friends and surf the spots that I always dreamed of!  It's going to be a pretty INCREDIBLE film, and I'm so excited for everyone to see it!
 
IML: Do you think there's an image of women surfers that you'd like to see changed?
 
lakey-surf.jpgLakey: For some reason girls just have the mindset that they can't surf as well as guys, but when you see this film you can see that we don't have that mindset. We don't let anything hold us back from surfing the best that we can.

IML: You started surfing competitively when you were 11. How did being involved so deeply in a sport help you during the pre-teen years? 

Lakey: I think that it has been amazing because I'm so busy that I don't have time to get into trouble. Surfing is known to be a party industry, but I'm not really into that whole scene. Don't get me wrong, I have fun but when it's time to focus...It's time to focus. I have that "Just Do It" mentality in me, I think!

Check out Lakey's Save Water Today PSA and learn more about how to do your part:




Celeb Scoop: Roshon Fegan
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roshon.jpgWho is that guy from "Camp Rock" and now "Shake It Up!" who's got all those awesome moves? That would be 19-year-old Roshon Fegan, who not only tears up a floor with dancing but also rocks the house with his original music and rapping. Roshon, or "Ya Boy Ro" as he's sometimes known, will be making a big splash this spring with a debut EP. We enjoyed chatting with this talented, down-to-earth sweetheart who's determined to be a role model for anyone struggling to find their individuality.

IML: Congrats on the upcoming EP. Tell us more about it!

Roshon: Well, I've been gathering songs forever, since I was 12, and this EP is something I've been working hard on to really present myself. I came up with this song "I Am," which is the first single. I wrote it out of nowhere and it came very naturally. It was something that could show who I was and hopefully inspire others to do the same. I like to make inspiring and uplifting music, and that's how the whole EP is.

IML: What's your songwriting process like?

Roshon: When I write songs, it's very random. I get influenced by the most random things! Sometimes it just comes to me in my sleep or just hanging out in a restaurant or something. Music just comes to me and I'll start writing from there. The process comes out of nowhere and it makes it fun.

IML: Do rhymes come to you naturally or do you have to look stuff up?

Roshon: Usually my rhymes are just in my head. I start off with a theme and once I start rapping and writing and singing, the chorus and all that, it just starts flowing. Then it's done in about an hour! I write a lot of songs.

IML: "I Am" is about staying true to who you are and hanging on to your individuality. Why do you think it's so hard for young people to do that?

Roshon: I believe it's from peer pressure and what you see in the media. Everything's an influence, so when we see a lot of stuff out there it's natural to want to have that. Not a bad thing, but sometimes we forget that life is about being yourself, which is the coolest of all. I've felt that way all my life, partially because my family has taught me that. I just wanted to influence and build a message and have it grow so people can catch on to it.

RoshonFegan.jpgIML: Well, it seems to be working for you! Was it ever hard for you? Have you ever felt like you should be something other than what you are?

Roshon: There were times when I did jump back and forth with styles and who I was. Again, everything's an influence. My older brother was an influence. I had friends and they had different styles. It's all about taking pieces of everything around you and pulling it into who you are. It's about being original. It's not committing to one thing, it's taking everything in your life and making it you.

IML: How old were you when you first got interested in music and rap and dancing? Did they happen at once for you?

Roshon: It did all happen at the same time. My dad's an actor, he's done producing and directing too. So I grew up around that and it felt natural to me. Music was just something I would do to pass time when I was bored, which was a lot because my brothers and sisters were older and they'd always be out doing their own thing. My mom used to let me play the pots and pans in the kitchen while she cooked. Time went on and that noise turned into music and my dad bought me a drum set. It just built up to everything working together.

IML: Your idol is Michael Jackson, which makes total sense. What is it about Michael that inspires you so much?

Roshon: Again, I think it's the originality factor. You can tell he was never afraid to be himself and show what he liked to do. Like his white socks. They shouted, that's me, that's what I do! It just caught on as a trend because people respect originality. His musical ability was insane, he was an amazing writer and producer, and of course a dancer, which was one of the biggest influences for me. He just did everything so him and I think that's why everybody loves him.

IML: Sadly enough, it seems that since his death, even more young people have discovered him.

Roshon: Even though he's gone, his music lives on. And out of his music, his style...he created all these trends from him just being himself. That's what I meant when I said I wanted to start a movement of people just being themselves...you can change the whole world!

IML: Besides Michael, who are your favorite dancers and choreographers?

Roshon: There are so many! There are a lot of insane dance crews right now, and since I've been on "Shake It Up" I've gotten to meet a lot of them, like the Jabberwockeez. I really believe that whoever is doing something with a strong passion is very much important to me. I love people like that.

IML: You produce your own music as well. What would be your advice for young people who would like to try it too?

Roshon: In this day and age, you don't really need much to do that. Of course, learning how to play whatever instrument you really love is important. Start with the basics, start with whatever you want to play, fill it and go for it, and then you get a little technical. You can do anything on a computer these days, everything's computerized. Start looking at the various programs people make music with. I have a rolling drum set that I play all the time and it's silent...I can put my headphones on and I practice even though I live in a loft. So there's always ways to play your music.

IML: Is there a cause you're really passionate about?

Roshon: Definitely taking care of these animals out here. The Wildlife Fund is doing a great job at it. I'm a huge animal lover, I love animals to death. I've got tortoises and three dogs and I've had a million animals in the past. I just think that we should do all we can to take care of them. Most of the time they're not able to do it themselves. So it's on us to really protect them and have them living healthy and happy. When they're happy, we're happy. It's all one big circle. It's important for us to look out for the ones who can't protect themselves.

IML: Roshon, we loved learning more about you. Good luck with your music, because it sounds like you really deserve it!

Roshon: Thank you so much!

Here's Roshon's "lyrics video" for "I Am"...words to take to heart!





Theme Park 101
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Thumbnail image for themepark.jpgSpring (and soon summer) is upon us! And for many IML'ers, that can only mean one thing...it's theme park time! Yes, even as you read this, vacationers of all ages are descending like crazy on countless water parks, adventure lands, zoos, and entertainment mega-worlds. A day at a theme park can be a great way to spend quality time with parents, sibs, relatives, and friends, but it's not always easy to have fun the sun (or rain, or whatever) without going absolutely bonkers, passing out from exhaustion, or demanding to be traded to a less annoying group of people.

So IML has put together this list of Top Ten theme park survival tips for tweens:

1) Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Yeah, yeah, We know this sounds like "grandma advice." But sometimes grandmas are smart! They've been around long enough to know, for example, that those stylish, bejeweled metallic flip-flops will probably shred your feet after about an hour of walking across hot concrete, and that really cute mini-skirt might make it tough to go on certain rides. It's natural to want to look and feel your best, especially if you're spending the day with friends, but you're going to have more fun in the end if you can focus on what you're doing and seeing, not what you're wearing. (Also, keep in mind that you'll very likely get wet at some point in the day, from a ride or water feature or Shamu, so wear something that dries quickly.)

2) Divide and Conquer. We love family unity and friendly togetherness as much as anyone, but to survive a long day at a mega park, you're probably gonna have to split up and take different routes at some point...especially if you have a big group. It'll save a lot of arguing and whining about "what to do next." Don't rely only on cell phones to hook back up, in case technical difficulties come up. Instead, try the old-fashioned method of "Let's meet in front of Raging Rapids at 11 o'clock."

3) Think twice about getting in that looooooong line. Yeah, we know that you want to see the just-opened panda exhibit at the zoo, or take a spin on the brand new ultra-dragon roller coaster at the theme park. But is five minutes of fun worth two hours of waiting in line? If you spent those two hours in a different way, you could take your sweet time exploring the zoo's awesome reptile house, or maybe take five rides on the park's older (but still awesome) coaster instead.

4) Shun the sugar. Wait, what? But yummies are the best part! Of course, treat yourself to one or two things during the day. Everything in moderation! The surge-and crash that comes from sugar overload, plus the physical and emotional yuckiness that too many sweet treats can give you, could put a drain on the whole experience. Drink water instead of soda (or better yet, bring a water bottle and fill it up at fountains to save money and waste), and snack on a pretzel instead of a doughnut. 

5) Know the loopholes. Help the adults you're with to read up on the theme park's special time-saving tricks and programs so you can do less waiting in line. Some popular rides, shows, and attractions may have "fast pass" machines so you can get a timed ticket to come back and skip the main line later in the day. Check insider websites and message boards to pinpoint the best day and time to visit certain attractions.

6) Throw out the checklist. Try not to have a long list of every single thing you "must" do while you're at the park. Remember, it's not about packing in as much as you can during the day, but about having an overall good time. If that means slowing down and skipping a few things, so be it. You may have a better day in the end if you take an hour in the middle to rest with a long lunch than if you powered through to the point of exhaustion.

7) Think like a kid. No matter what age you are, places like zoos and theme parks are more fun if you don't think like a grown-up. If you're with younger children, seeing it through their eyes can really make things magical. Relax and have fun. Don't try to be cool and cynical. Be goofy, especially when you actually meet Goofy.

8) Be money smart. These places are designed to practically Hoover cash out of your pockets. Maybe you rely on the adults you're with to buy you everything at the park but if not, give yourself a personal budget for the day and stick to it by bringing snacks, saving your money for one or two souvenirs you really want, and forgoing stuff that costs extra. After it's all over, you'll most remember your experiences rather than the things you bought, and you may avoid that icky "I can't believe how much money I spent" feeling.

9) Don't be a herd animal. Try not to fall into the same patterns as everyone else at the park...that just leads to crowds and unhappiness. Think different. If nearly everyone packs the lunch spots at noon, try having a light snack at eleven and then lunch at 2, when the food lines are shorter and you won't have to fight for a table. If everybody and his cousin is swarming to the main drag for the 5pm parade, maybe that's the time for you to head to the opposite side of the park and get in the (now much shorter) line for the Mayhem Mountain ride.

10) Fights and feuds are normal, but don't let them spoil things. If you and your friends and family have regular tiffs at home, being in the strange, often stressful environment of a theme park can turn those tiffs into wars. Yes, you're here to have fun...but sometimes the pressure to have that fun (plus the heat, and crowds, and exhaustion) can make it harder to come by! Try to resolve conflicts on the spot using compromises and communication. If you have to give in more than you normally would, or put up with something you would never stand for at home, then so be it. You'll probably find that all the cool distractions will help you forget your disagreement and move on to creating great memories together.

Now it's your turn: share your own stories and tips on our Theme Park You Said It page. You can also get more advice in our Family Vacations section. 

Good luck, and have fun!

 
Celeb Scoop: Plug In Stereo
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Plug In Stereo.jpgYou might notice his hair first, but it's the music that will make you remember Plug In Stereo, a.k.a. 18-year-old Portland native Trevor Dahl. If it's possible for an album to walk that teeny-tiny line between the fun and sweetness of young "pop" and the make-you-really-think-and-feel-stuff soul of "independent," Plug In Stereo's new "Nothing to Something" manages to do it. And you know we're always on the lookout for tweens and teens who are going for their dreams, doing what they love on their own terms and actually having success with it. So we really enjoyed chatting with Trevor about his music and the path he's taken so far.

IML: Congrats on the album! We're really loving it over here. Are any of the songs on it particularly special to you?

Trevor: One song called "What Goes Around" is about people in high school who were negative and doubting me and what I was doing. That one means a lot to me. Another song called "Thursday" is about my best friend's mom, who committed suicide. That was really rough, and I wrote it from his perspective. She was like a second mom to me and that song comes from a really personal place, for sure. Even though these sound like depressing experiences, I tried to make the songs about positive things.

IML: What's your songwriting process like?

Trevor: It's different every time. Sometimes I'll just write a poem in the car, then create a guitar line and put the lyrics and melody to it. Or I'll have my guitar and create that part first, then come up with a melody and lyrics, trying to make the lyrics fit with the guitar parts.

IML: How old were you when you first picked up the guitar?

Trevor: I picked it up in 6th grade, when I was about 12 years old. My dad played guitar, as well as my uncle and a few cousins. My family has always been musical so it always interested me. I started playing and never stopped! My brother played too, and he'd play music with his friends with this little PA system in our garage. None of my friends played so I'd always be trying to play with them, but they'd be like, you can't come out here! So instead I'd sit in my room and record my own stuff, and that's probably what got me where I am.

IML: How did music help you during the trials and tribulations of middle school and high school?

Trevor: Whenever I'd go through things emotionally -- if I was mad, or I really liked some girl -- it always helped me to sit in my room and write about stuff, and record it.

IML: It seems like it's so much easier for young musicians to just join a band and have that group dynamic. What made you decide to be a solo artist instead?

Trevor: It happened kind of by accident. I was in this band with my friends and one day, when we were all on a break because people were away on vacation, I borrowed my friend's microphone and recorded a few songs. I just did it for fun and those ended up being my first two songs for Plug In Stereo. I didn't have lyrics in the beginning, I just posted them and people liked them. I got a few fans, so then I decided to start singing because I'd never really done any singing before that.

IML: Who are your musical influences and inspirations?

Trevor: In the beginning when I first started, my music was a lot more "poppy." Now I'm a lot more into John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Jason Reed, Bob Marley. A lot of singer-songwriter stuff.

IML: What would you like tween listeners to take away from this album?

Trevor: I would just say, listen to the lyrics because they might help you deal with the subjects the songs are about. Every song has a different message, but you also have to take your own message from it. You have your own ideas, and the songs will mean different things to different people.

IML: Are you worried about being pigeonholed as a "teen" artist?

Trevor: Definitely. In the beginning, my songs went in that direction. Now, I really don't want them to. Hopefully fans will get older as I do and vibe with it.

IML: Thanks, Trevor! We have a feeling you'll be around for a while.

Trevor: Thank you!

You can check out Plug In Stereo's music for yourself at www.myspace.com/pluginstereo. We also love his video for the single "Oh Darling":
 





Our login system is almost here!
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We've been working hard on the new login system for IML, and it's just about ready! Here's what you need to know:

As of this Wednesday, April 13, in order to post a submission to any You Said It page, you'll need to be logged in with a PBS KIDS GO! username. If you're not already logged in, you'll be asked to do that, or if you don't have a username, you'll be given a chance to create one.

Getting a username is very easy and just takes a few seconds. You WILL NOT be asked for any information about yourself (like name, age, or location) and you WILL NOT be asked to provide an email address. You will just be asked to create a username and password, and choose a secret code that will help you if you ever forget your password. These usernames will be approved by someone at PBS KIDS GO! within 24 hours to make sure they aren't offensive (until your username is approved, you will show up as "New User"). This is how PBS KIDS GO! keeps everyone safe.

We know that some of you feel you won't be allowed to use IML now, because you're not permitted to "register" on any websites. If that's the case, we hope you'll find a way to stay a part of our YSI pages, perhaps by showing a parent that the PBS KIDS GO! login is carefully designed to be ultra-safe and protect everyone's privacy.

You may just want to use your username to post on IML, and that's totally fine. However, if you want to, you can take advantage of the Secret Box system that comes with your GO! username. The Secret Box lets you keep track of all your own posts  and you will also be able to save other things you create not just on IML but on other GO! sites. You'll be able to choose a "theme" and an "icon" to represent you; scroll down towards the bottom of the choices and you'll see some familiar faces from IML games and illustrations. You'll also be able to add and keep track of friends you meet on IML, and visit their Secret Boxes.

We know some of you were hoping we'd be able to keep at least one YSI page open without needing a login, but after a lot of discussion, we decided that this would cause more problems than it would solve. So if you don't have a username or are not logged in, you will be able to read posts on all YSI pages, but not submit your own. We realize we might lose some great IML'ers because of this, and it was a very hard choice to make, but we believe it's for the best. We didn't make any of these decisions lightly and took IML'ers comments into serious consideration. IML will be even safer now that there can be no more "Impostering" -- someone using your IML name to post, pretending to be you -- and a better way to connect with other tweens through the Secret Box system.

IMPORTANT INFO:
Since we are totally changing over, ALL of the existing posts on the You Said It pages will be gone. Poof! Not ideal, we know. We tried to figure out a way to keep the old and the new, but it would just be too confusing. So if you posted something that you really would like to see on the new pages -- something from My Writing, for instance, or anything you spent a lot of time on -- we suggest you cut and paste it onto your computer now so you can re-post it again with your GO! username once the switch happens.

We know most of you have been wanting this login system for a while now, and we're so excited that it's finally here!


Celeb Scoop: Hannah Teter
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HannahTeter.jpgYou may know Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter for her head-spinning half-pipe moves, but what you may not be aware of is that Hannah spends a good deal of her time and energy helping to shred child poverty across the globe.

Last year, Hannah teamed up with two friends -- snowboarder Gabi Viteri and surfer Monyca Byrne-Wickey -- to form a clothing line called Sweet Cheeks. Forty percent of the proceeds go to Children International, a humanitarian organization that helps poor children throughout the world. We recently spoke to Hannah about her dedication to the cause, as well as what health and sports participation has meant to her.

IML: How did you first get interested in the issue of child poverty?

Hannah: My family sponsored a child when I was growing up, so that's how I first got involved. I was really young and saw what a child my own age in another country was going through, and how we were helping them and their families. That gave me an awareness right off the bat, that 20 dollars a month can change some kid's life forever.

IML: Last fall, you traveled to Mexico to see the issue firsthand. Can you tell us about that?

Hannah: I went with Gaby and Monyca to see how our donations from Sweet Cheeks were making a difference with Children International, and to see their Game On program in action. The Game On program is where they set up a whole building where the kids will come in and they have a doctor, a dentist, medicine if they need it, nutrition classes for the parents, schooling for the kids, sports...all in one place. They show up and they get this whole slew of things they wouldn't get anywhere else. It's set up in a community of 20,000 to 30,000 people so they're big centers and there are a lot of kids that come through. It was amazing to go into these villages and meet these families, hear their stories and what they're going through, and how we're making a difference. They were mostly families that have recently been picked up by Children International, and we really got to see how it works and hear first hand from them. It was just incredible.

IML: What strikes you most about the kids you meet?

Hannah: You go in and these kids are just so beautiful and so smart, and aware of their situation but they're just the most happy, smiling kids. They have nothing but they're just shining so bright. It definitely makes you aware that material things don't make you happy, it's all about the connection with your family and friends and community, because that's all they have. That's what they live off of.

IML: That definitely gives you perspective. Why else is it important for young people to make themselves aware of the issue of child poverty?

Hannah: So they can be the changemakers. If they're aware of what's going on, then they can be the ones to make changes, because they're the future. They're going to be running our country in the coming years, and be our voices for change. If they don't know what's going on, we can't make any changes. So it's really important for kids to have that perspective and know the issues that we're facing so they can think about that kind of stuff. It also helps you appreciate what you have in life.

IML: If someone wants to help but they don't have their own money to sponsor a child or send a donation, what else can they do? If you're 10 years old and don't have a lot of resources, what can you do to help out?

Hannah: I think it just starts with your surrounding friends and family. To be positive. The simple things, like sharing and caring and recycling. Just showing their surrounding situations, the positiveness. That will just spread. It starts with a small thing and usually makes way more impact than you even think. I've witnessed many things that kids have done, from having a dinner fundraiser to a bottle drive to selling lemonade, simple things like that. A little goes a long way. Even if you raise $50, that's feeding a kid for a couple of months in another country!

IML: Good to keep in mind! So on IML, we talk a lot about different kinds of health. What does that word "health" mean to you, and how do we get good health in our lives?

Hannah: Health to me is a combination of things, from physical health to mental health to just overall well-being. There are so many avenues to walk down to be healthy. Definitely a huge thing is diet and what you're putting in your body, being conscious of it. What's in what you're eating? It's hard to know sometimes, especially in our culture. They makes labels so that you don't understand what you're looking at. Then, mental health is huge as well. They say stress can affect your overall health almost as much as what you eat. So keeping your mind positive and thinking helpful thoughts to yourself -- that's hard to do -- but definitely possible and it makes a huge difference in being healthy. And exercise, of course. Getting yourself out and moving!

IML: It's hard for us to remember that all that stuff is relatively easy, they just need to make it a priority. You've been snowboarding since you were 9 years old. What did being involved in sports mean to you as a kid?

Hannah: It was definitely an outlet to let out all the energy I had built up from sitting at a desk all day. I'd done a lot of team sports and I was lucky because we had mellow coaches who helped make it fun. It should always be about the fun when you're young. With snowboarding, I was lucky because it was a program my school offered. Every Friday, they'd take us up to the mountain and we'd be in groups. I'd be with friends and we'd just have the time of our lives. I remember starting, I was the worst one in my group. They'd all have to wait for me at the bottom of the hill. But over time I ended up becoming the best. It was just for fun, and my friends never cared who was the best. It was all about progression.

IML: Was there a moment for you when you were like, I really want to do this at a higher level?

Hannah: I kind of felt like that when I had done a few amateur competitions and did well. Then I was talking to my brother and I was like, "Yeah, I'm going to do the U.S. Open and get on the podium." He was like, "Yeah, right. You can't do that." That just fueled my fire. And I didn't do it the next year, which I'd originally planned, but the year after I ended up getting on the podium twice and winning a car. When somebody tells you that you can't do something, it makes you want to do it way more!

IML: You've been able to turn your success as an athlete into an opportunity to do some real good in the world. Do you remember what first motivated you there?

Hannah: When I was about 13, there was this one super special place that I would always walk to. It was a rock out in the middle of this meadow. This was before I started traveling for snowboarding. I had this feeling that if I were to ever make it big, that I would want to use my success to help out in the most ways I could. I'd go to this rock a couple times a week until I moved away from Vermont at age 18. I always had that feeling, then I ended up going to the Olympics in Torino and after winning there, I knew that it was the hugest platform to start something big. I just always carried that feeling.

IML: Lucky for all those kids and families, then! Thanks for talking with us, Hannah, and good luck with everything.

Hannah: Thanks!

Here's a video of Hannah, Gabi, and Monyca talking more about their experiences in Mexico:



For more information on Children International, or how to sponsor a child, visit www.children.org.




Meet tween comedian Zach Rosenfeld
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What's your favorite after school activity? Soccer? Gymnastics? Hanging out at the park? How about...stand-up comedy?

IMG_6533.JPGWe recently got a chance to talk to Zach Rosenfeld, a 12-year old from Brooklyn, NY who spends a lot of his free time on a stage telling jokes. Thanks to a program called Kids 'N Comedy, Zach is a real comedian who gets to crack up real audiences at Manhattan's Gotham Comedy Club. Here's our conversation with Zach:

IML: Tell us a little bit about Kids 'N Comedy and how you got involved with it!


Zach: Kids 'N Comedy is basically a group of kids who just want to get together and be funny. This is really just kids who want something good to do with their time, and it's really fun. When I was younger, I got interested in it because we went to one of their shows, and I decided to get involved. Normally, they wouldn't take anyone under eleven, but I was the exception. I was nine. I started out with the classes, which are weekly. Then after two or three classes, I moved up to the workshops, and then I finally moved up to the club shows. They used to have the shows monthly, and now they happen every two weeks.

IML: How do you write your comedy material? Do things just pop into your head during the day, or do you set aside time specifically to write jokes?

Zach: I normally sit down and say, "Okay, I need to get to work, because I want this to be good." Then I think of funny things in my life or things that have happened to me, and then I turn those into jokes, which are sometimes self-deprecating. And that ends up becoming about a five-to-seven minute routine.

IML: Are your family members funny too?

Zach: My mother is very funny, and I get my wit from her. She was always kind of quiet with her humor, so I become more of a spokesperson than she ever was.  My father is witty at times, but not as much as my mom. And my little brother is interested in doing this in the future, and I also did a routine about him once.

IML: Did your parents encourage you towards comedy, or did it mostly come from you?

Zach: I would say it was mostly me. Because I just went to one of these shows and I said, "Hey, everyone always calls me funny, but I've never done something like this. Maybe I can be funny like this, too." So I decided to try my best at doing something on a stage. And I've come to love the microphone, and just being on the stage and having the attention. It's just really great.

IML: Once you started taking the comedy classes, how long was it before you got on stage in front of an audience?

Zach: They have about nine weeks of practices and coming up with stuff. That eventually leads to a show where you can invite your friends and family. And now I do the monthly show, and the public is allowed to come.

IML: What was it like, the first time you stepped out into the spotlight?

Zach: I was sorta nervous. But the way I see it is...for the first three seconds you're hyper nervous, and you're tapping your foot and thinking, "When's this gonna happen? Is he gonna call me on now?" And you're pacing. And then you get on the stage. And you know your material...and even if you don't know it that well, you just get into it, and you have fun with the audience. Their laughter means a lot to you, because it shows that what you've done really helps people enjoy what's going on. I normally laugh at my own jokes...or at the reactions to my jokes.

IML: One of your stand-up routines is about your experiences with dyslexia. Why do you think audiences respond to these jokes?

Zach: People respond when you make fun of yourself. Because everyone has problems. Everyone has something that they're hiding. And for someone to go up on stage and just completely put himself out there, and give funny stories about it...they like that because it shows personality and it shows that you're not afraid to go up there and tell people who you really are and get them to like you.

IML: Does comedy help you deal with the challenges of living with dyslexia?

Zach: Well, at this point, I have what they call "compensated dyslexia." I'll always have dyslexia, but it's basically been fixed. I got a tutor, and I had been working for about four years, and I can finally say that I've become a compensated dyslexic. My stand-up routine...it didn't so much help with the dyslexia, but from the reactions of the crowd you can tell that everyone else also has problems, and they're laughing with you. It's encouraging.

IML: What was school like for you before you found ways to work through your learning disability?

Zach: In my school, they started giving pressured homework around second grade. They had weekly tests of spelling, and you had to recite a poem that you had memorized. And it was very challenging. I had to work with my mom for hours, and this was before people knew I was a dyslexic. It took up a lot of my time, but I was very confident, and I kept pushing forward. In third grade, my parents had me tested, and I was positive for dyslexia. I got a tutor and she was just amazing. I still go to her once a week. She's very funny, we joke around a lot when we do our sessions and it's just spectacular. I found ways to compensate using her techniques, and eventually it just came naturally.

IML: How has being a comedian affected your friendships at school?

Zach: It's interesting that you ask that. Recently, all my friends have been going around and asking about my routine, and it's sort of exciting. Because you know that you have a skill that most people would say they have...the ability to go onstage, speak in public and be funny on top of that. Some people expect knock-knock jokes and short one-liners, but that isn't the way I do my comedy. I would think that people would like this attention... it's a unique skill, to be able to do stand-up.

IML: Is this purely a hobby for you, or do you want to pursue comedy as a career?

Zach: Like most people, I have dreams. I think it would be great to be a professional stand-up comedian. But it is definitely a hobby at this point.

IML: Have you faced different types of crowds? How important is the support of the audience?

Zach: Personally, I like the crowd's support. But there are always days when it won't be a good crowd. You can't make your routine on what the crowd is doing. You just have to focus on having fun with yourself.

IML: Do you enjoy doing new material, or do you usually like to do tested stuff that you know is going to get a laugh?

Zach: Recently I've been falling back on dyslexia a bit. I'm taking a long break from doing stand-up because of my bar mitzvah in May. So, I'm taking a break until September but I've decided there are no more excuses and I have to get something new out there.

IML: Will you have a serious bar mitzvah, or a funny one?

Zach: I plan for it to be funny.

IML: Are there any comics out there who you really respect, or want to be like?

Zach: Just like every other Jewish comedian, I idolize Adam Sandler. I also love Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld...they're all great.

IMG_3146.JPGIML: What advice would you give someone your age who dreams of being a comedian or entertainer?

Zach: I would say, just do what you're happy with. Just do what you like or love, and if you're gonna do it, do your best, and don't be afraid of making a fool out of yourself, because that's just part of the comedy. And I've done that once or twice.  Also, you may not have the funniest life, but if there's someone around you who has something funny going on with them, do not be afraid to use peers, your parents, or siblings in your jokes, because it's just hysterical to see the reactions.

IML: Thanks for talking with us Zach, and good luck with your bar mitzvah and your stand-up!

Zach:
  Thank you so much!

For more on Kids 'N Comedy and to watch some videos that include Zach's performances, check out www.kidsncomedy.com.



Advice on how to design your own clothes
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So it's spring, and that's a GREAT excuse to go out and buy some new clothes. A new season might mean a new attitude, which might call for a new style! But what do you do if you're on a budget and can only choose a few items? What if you're told, "You still have clothes that fit you, wear those!", but you're completely sick of them?

fashion-playtes.jpgThat's where the fantabulous art of embellishment comes in, and we know some of you IML'ers are already experts on that. Embellishment is when you take a piece of clothing that's rather basic and plain, then bling it up with graphic patches, iron-on's, and appliques, fabric ribbons and flowers, rhinestones and other shiny things. It's a really cool way to express yourself, shout your individuality, and explore your personal style. Think of it as "Project Runway" with none of the mean judging and all of the fun.

We were excited to discover a new website called FashionPlaytes that gives girls the opportunity to do this virtually, with the added bonus of actually being able to have their creations made! We asked FashionPlaytes founder Sarah McIlroy to share some tips for IML'ers who want to play around with clothing embellishment, whether it's online or on their own:

  • Start with a theme or color. This will help guide you through the design process and give you a good start and vision for what you'd like to design. If you have an existing piece of clothing you'd like to work with, let the style of it inspire you. For instance, a simple solid-colored t-shirt is a great blank canvas to do something fancy, while a tank top that already has ruffles and a pattern might look best with only one or two simple accents. Don't use too many patterns or colors that might clash with one another and distract from your design.

  • Don't forget that clothing's not the only thing that can be embellished. Purses, backpacks, tote bags, and other accessories like hats, scarves, etc. can also be spiffed up!

  • embellishment.JPGChoose your materials and get stocked up. Go to a craft supply store and check out all the things you can put on fabric: paint, pens, rhinestones, heat transfers, glitter, etc. Decide whether you feel confident enough to sew things on, or use fabric glue (hot glue guns and sewing materials may be things you need to use with an adult around to help).
  • Look for materials in a color palette and get comfortable mixing and matching fabrics and patterns. Don't be afraid to try something new like bright neon colors. It's fun to explore and see what other colors or patterns look good on you!
  • Practice makes better. If you're drawing a design freehand, try it on a blank piece of paper first. Do a test run of something on scrap material first if you want to make sure you get it the way you want it on the final product. Keep in mind, however, that there are no such things as mistakes! Your "goofs" may end up being your favorite part of the design.

  • Choosing and creating styles is a lot about learning to listen to yourself. Listen to how you're feeling that day, what makes you comfortable and confident, and most importantly, pick something that makes you feel good and try not to listen to what others say. That's the beauty of embellishment - learning to express yourself and wear clothing YOU designed, not something someone else told you to wear.
We hope that inspires you to go out and play fashion designer this weekend!