Financial Aid office, Kennesaw State University. Photo: Clay Duda/JJIE

Pell Grant Cuts Begin in Summer School

It might make for a more leisurely summer, but Kennesaw State University student Steven Welch didn’t dump college courses to have more free time. He did it because he couldn’t afford the cost. Welch, 24, had to make the move because he no longer qualified for a Pell Grant to cover the cost of summer tuition. Restrictions on the grant program, long used to help low-income and some middle-class students stem the cost of higher education, were enacted by Congress last year -- but students are feeling the impact for the first time this summer as the changes are implemented across the country. Before this summer, students could use more than the allotted $5,550 per year to help cover the cost of tuition and other school related expenses.

Celebrating the Power of the Still: Photography and its Place in Our Lives

JJIE launches Arts site:
Not too many years ago, the still photo was the domain of the professional and the dedicated hobbyist. Today, when school children routinely have iPhones at the ready, we’ve reached the point where the world is our collective subject, caught from a billion different angles.

And what a glorious addition to our gallery of life’s great riches it is, this daily chronicle of human life, the capture of otherwise forgotten moments, the tally of the small order of life's minutiae as well as the dramatic breaths in time that bring about outcries of emotion, the sparking of movements, the fall of governments.

With so many photos taken by so many photographers, though, the prevailing opinion may be that the art form has been eroded, that the cascade of mostly mediocre images pummels the viewer into disinterest. The riveting scene from a few years ago now ranges from mildly interesting to old hat.

But the truth is, stunningly wonderful photography exists at the top of the populace’s current body of work. These are the images produced by those who know the science of the trade and practice it with a passion, every day. You see their work in the giant metro papers, but also in galleries. The composition, if you will, is there. A nice picture, that on closer inspection tells a story that demands your attention and stirs your emotions.

Today, JJIE introduces Bokeh, what you might call our fine arts site. Here is a place where some very fine still images will reside, along with photo essays and written essays on the art of photography.

Some of this work will include those at top of the field. On Monday, we begin publishing photographer Richard Ross’ work. Ross spent five years photographing and interviewing some 1,000 inmates in youth detention centers all across the country.

Other work on Bokeh (the name roughly means, ‘the aesthetic quality of the blur in that part of the unfocused image’) includes our own. Today, a photo essay, “Saturday in the Park,” by JJIE photographer Clay Duda runs on the site. This is our attempt to capture the voices and thoughts of kids on common, but important, questions of the day. (Click here or see the introduction to the essay below.)

And finally, through our partnerships with groups such as VOX Teen Communications, you’ll see the work of young photographers, the way they see the world and the issues dominant in their lives.

Youth as its subject and the quality of the work are the common threads in the photography of the professionals, the up-and-coming photojournalists and the dedicated beginners congregating on Bokeh.

What you see on Bokeh is meant to be craft, strong and compelling, a home for the best work on the issues of juvenile justice.

We hope you enjoy it.


The Poetic Days of Late Summer: Inside VOX’s Media Café

Thoughts of summertime and teens usually bring to mind images of baseball, swimming holes and lazy, nothing-filled afternoons. But nestled in the corner of a Midtown Atlanta high rise a group of teens have been passing the dog days of the season in a slightly different way. For nearly two decades VOX Teen Communications has been honing the journalism and leadership skills of a diverse cross section of Atlanta teens. Each year more than a hundred pass through the newsroom doors or slide into the seat at one of their workshops. During the school year, the non-profit publishes the city’s only teen-powered newspaper.

States Respond to Budget Shortfalls with Hodgepodge of Juvenile Justice Cuts

Around the nation, states continue to grapple with the reality of budget shortfalls with a hodgepodge of cuts to various programs, including juvenile justice.

North Carolina’s Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is being forced to cut spending by 10 percent while eliminating roughly 275 positions, a 15 percent decrease in work force, under the new FY 2012 budget.

Also gone are 75 beds from the state’s seven youth development centers, raising concerns that serious offenders may end up back on the streets to make room for new juveniles entering the facilities.

Alabama’s Department of Child Abuse & Neglect Prevention has a FY 2012 General Fund roughly half that of FY 2011. The department saw a 74 percent drop in state funding and significant cuts from the federal-level.

Playgrounds — To the Summit of the Monkey Bars

A few bumps, bruises and broken bones from playing on a playground might be good for kids after all. Playgrounds with safety features such as low height limitations and padded ground might be too safe, the New York Times reports, potentially preventing kids from developing emotionally and contributing to unnecessary anxiety later in life. Risky play, such as climbing or wrestling, gradually exposes kids to dangers and helps them solve problems. What kids learn on the playground is a similar technique that therapists use to help conquer phobias in adults – starting small and working toward larger goals, such as reaching the top of the monkey bars – Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway, told the Times. Some experts and parents disagree with the idea that playgrounds may be too safe, worrying fears may be introduced too early in a child’s life and ultimately develop into phobias. However, recent studies have shown quite the opposite, purporting that kids injured at a younger age are less likely to develop phobias toward risky behavior as those who didn’t experience the same life lessons.

LGBT stock photo - Clay Duda,

Double Jeopardy: Lesbian Activist Says Fear of Parents’ Homophobia Inspires Secret Life

["Double Jeopardy: Lesbian Activist Says Fear of Parents’ Homophobia Inspires Secret Life" is part 2 of a 3 part series on LGBT issues. Bookmark this page for updates.]

Second Life is a virtual reality game wherein members create a customized “avatar” that serves as a digital representation of themselves. In this three-dimensional virtual community, the avatar assumes an identity, takes up residence and moves about in a world completely created by them, for them. Second Lifers buy property, start businesses, make friends, join clubs, attend classes or sometimes just hang out. Amber Holt* has never played this game, but in many respects, she feels like she lives it every day.

Mississippi Joins 38 Other States, Raises Juvenile Age to Eighteen

An amended law that took effect July 1 made Mississippi the latest state to rethink how youth under the age of 18 are handled in criminal court. The new measure prevents most 17-year-old misdemeanor and nonviolent felony offenders from being tried as adults. Certain felonies including rape, murder and armed robbery may still warrant charges in the adult court system. Two other states, Connecticut and Illinois, passed similar reforms earlier this year bringing the national total to 39 states that view juveniles as any individual below the age of 18, according to a report issued last week by the Campaign for Youth Justice. “This is a good news report.” Liz Ryan, director of the Campaign for Youth Justice, -- a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit focused on the issue -- told USA Today.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga.

Keeping Teens Summer Safe, a Resource Guide from the CDC

Extra time behind the wheel, long days at the lake and added exposure to the sun are just a few of the hazards kids and teens face as summer officially grabs hold. Unfortunately not everyone gets the summer months off. Parents are left to pick up the slack and still put in their 40 hours each week to pay the bills. So how do you keep your kids safe and the boss happy at the same time? The Centers for Disease Control has made available a wealth of resources for parents asking themselves that very question.