Young People Throng to Nation’s Capital to Catch a Glimpse of History

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than a million people poured into downtown Washington, D.C., yesterday, a federal holiday dedicated to slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., for the festivities marking the start of President Barack Obama’s second term in office. The crowd included hundreds of thousands of young people from around the country, from elementary school students accompanying their parents to college-age youth hanging out with their friends. They spent hours traveling on buses and trains to the National Mall, more hours waiting in the January cold for the ceremonies to begin, and many more stuck in gridlock at security checkpoints and Metrorail stations afterward on their way home. Youth Today asked some of these young people, many of whom were too young to vote for Obama either time, why they were there. On the Orange Line Metrorail from Vienna, Va., to L’Enfant Plaza, D.C.

“I just wanted to see what Michelle was wearing,” joked Sarah Allu, 19, who boarded a Metrorail train in Vienna, Va., at the far end of the Orange Line, early Monday morning to head to the National Mall with Amandeep Sandhu, 20, and Pravarjay Reddy, 18.

Youth Today Speaks with Young Voters at Polls Across US

On Election Day, in the final hours of a historic presidential race, Youth Today reporters spread out to polling stations across the nation and asked young voters what issues mattered most to them. To find out how they voted, check out the continuing updates to this real-time story at youthtoday.org.

Senate Confirmation Rule Dropped for Federal Juvenile Justice Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Juvenile justice advocates are dismayed by a new law that they say threatens to accelerate the fading relevance of juvenile justice reform within the federal government. To the chagrin of many, President Barack Obama has not nominated anyone for the U.S. Senate to confirm as a permanent leader of federal juvenile justice efforts since he took office. For three and a half years, the federal office responsible for setting national policy, sharing research on best practices and funding state initiatives on juvenile justice and delinquency prevention has chugged along on temporary leadership, first under acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski and since January, under acting Administrator Melodee Hanes. If the White House does name a person to fill the long-vacant position – something unlikely to happen soon, advocates say, given a looming presidential election — such a Senate confirmation will never come. That’s because effective Aug.

Comics Journalism: ‘Jessica Colotl: In the Eye of the Storm’

Jessica Colotl says her life is a series of hearings since the struggle began between her and federal and state authorities over whether she can stay in the country she’s called home since she was ten years old. Read the English version here and the Spanish version here. Colotl is young; she’s in limbo like many other immigrants, her story shifts from her college to a detention facility to a presidential announcement to a tenuous freedom. It’s a story that’s dramatic, tense, and now it’s presented in a way more accessible to young people. Furthermore, the story is reported through an innovative new form: illustrative or comics journalism.

United States Will Stop Deporting Young Undocumented Immigrants Under New Policy

The Obama administration will no longer deport and begin granting work permits to young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, The New York Times reports. The policy change does not need Congressional approval. President Obama will discuss the plan at a press conference in the Rose Garden Friday afternoon. The policy change could affect some 800,000 immigrants who are younger than 30 and arrived in the United States before they turned 16, according to The Times. Additionally, they must have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have a high school diploma or GED earned in the United States, served in the military or have no criminal history.

Senate Bill to Extend Current Student Loan Interest Rates Defeated

Tuesday, Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a bill backed by Democrats that would have kept interest rates for certain federal student loans from doubling this July. By a 52-45 majority, GOP senators effectively killed the proposal – entitled the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012, it marking this Congress’ 21st successful filibuster of a Democratic-sponsored bill, according to The New York Times. If an extension of current federally-subsidized student loan rates does not occur, loan rates for undergraduate students are expected to jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 later this summer. According to recent reports, American students took out almost twice the value of student loans in 2011 – estimated at about $112 billion – than they did a decade ago. In 2010, student loan debt totaled approximately $1 trillion, eclipsing credit card debt as the nation’s second largest form of debt behind mortgages, USA Today reported.

Food is Fundamental, Only Don’t Ask Newt Gingrich

On January 21 Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina Primary. But he did it, in part, by using racist rhetoric, characterizing President Obama as “the best food stamp president in American history.” Since then, he has continued to drive this distortion hoping it will somehow resonate with voters. It’s not likely to work, because most Americans understand that food is fundamental. Presidents do not put people onto the food stamp rolls.

A Look at Youth-Related Spending in Obama’s 2013 Budget

This story originally appeared on YouthToday. President Barack Obama unveiled his 2013 budget proposal today, which calls for $3.8 trillion in spending and projects a $901 billion deficit for the year. It was quickly met with resistance from Republican leadership. “The President’s budget falls exceptionally short in many critical areas – including a lack of any substantive proposal for mandatory and entitlement spending reform,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), in a statement issued this morning. Rogers promised to “go line by line through the President’s budget, prioritize programs, and make decisions on the appropriate investment of discretionary funds.”

Juvenile Justice

The president would fund the Office of Justice Programs at $1.7 billion in 2013, down from $2.7 billion in 2011 and $2 billion in 2012.

Congress Makes Further Cuts to Juvenile Justice Funding

House and Senate appropriations leaders finalized a “minibus” spending package that further reduces the relevance of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and possibly jeopardizes the office’s connection with state governments. The bill – which funds the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development – trims the allocation from an already-reduced $275 million in fiscal 2011 to $262.5 million for fiscal 2012. The minibus package contains another continuing resolution allowing the government to operate through December 16. The structure of the juvenile justice funding comes from the Senate Appropriations Committee’s bill, which drastically reduced funding but kept some for each program of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Under the agreement reached by appropriations confereees, the funding levels for OJJDP’s biggest programs, which include state formula grants, mentoring and missing and exploited children, more closely mirror what was proposed by the House appropriators.

Students Hopeful New College Loan Program Will Take the Pressure Off

Beginning in January, students who borrow to pay for college will keep more of their paycheck when it comes time to pay the loans back. Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced a plan that would cap monthly payments on federal student loans to 10 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income. The change comes after a petition on the White House website asking for student loan forgiveness received 32,000 signatures. Although the focus of the plan is not on debt relief, the new proposal would forgive student loan debt after 20 years of payments. The program is a modification of an earlier proposal approved by Congress that would have taken effect in 2014 and capped monthly payments at 15 percent of a student’s income.