Archive | December, 2011

Are you a kick-ass youth activist? Nominate yourself or someone else for the 2012 NCCJ Youth Award!

20 Dec

2011 CT Youth Award Winner Lourdes "LuLu" Cruz giving her acceptance speech!

So you went to ANYTOWN, learned how to make the hippo smile, made friends of a lifetime, cried your eyes out, and to top it off you actually learned more about yourself, others, and our society in a week than you ever had before.

Then you went home, missed your ANYTOWN friends, stalked them on Facebook, wrote amazing things about how fantabulous the experience was in your college essay or on your Tumblr, and maybe even sucked up a little to Muneer so you can come back next year.  Then you went to school or you went to work or you went home.  You saw that prejudice is everywhere and not everyone knows it.  You heard offensive jokes, you saw people be mistreated, you heard sexist songs, and watched violent movies and tv shows that perpetuate all of this. You tried to say something, maybe you did say something.  Some listened to you and others dismissed you.

Then you missed ANYTOWN again, because at least there you felt safe.  You felt everyone heard and understood.  You felt like people were trying to build each other up than cut each other down.  So you went back to Facebook and stalked your ANYTOWN friends again.  After a little while you remembered that the reason you were chosen to attend ANYTOWN was because you had the potential to do something with what you learned.  You had the potential to build that safe space in your school and to teach others about prejudice and to be a role model in celebrating differences in others.

So you went back to your school, your home, your work, or other places that you spend a lot of time in and decided to make a change.

2011 Youth Award Winner Rosaline Abraham (center) with ANYTOWN friends Jennifer Hightower and Natalie Martell

And now, we (at NCCJ) want to celebrate YOU for making that change in your community.  Nominate yourself or SOMEONE else who you think has done something to bring the ANYTOWN values in their community.  We will pick two winners – one from Connecticut and one from Massachusetts who will then get to be recognized at our super glamorous Human Relations Banquets.  Fair warning, the winner gets a lot of hugs!

Here’s the nomination form.  Fill it out and either email the completed nomination form to Muneer Panjwani at or mail it at NCCJ 1095 Day Hill Road, ste 100, Windsor, CT 06095.

Best of Luck!


7th Annual ANYTOWN Reunion on January 14th, 2012! Who’s coming?

14 Dec

The YES! Campaign was planned by youth who have attended NCCJ’s ANYTOWN program.  If you haven’t attended this life-changing program, you’re missing out on some good living.  Check out the program here: ANYTOWN.

Each year we bring together ANYTOWN Alums for a day of Winter fun as well as to engage them in dialogue around a specific issue.  Last year we talked about bullying which spawned The YES! Campaign.  Who knows what this year will bring?

If you are an ANYTOWN alum from last year or from ten years ago – you are invited to the 7th Annual ANYTOWN Reunion to be held at Camp Jewell in Colebrook CT on January 14th, 2012!  This event is free with a suggested donation and transportation is provided from Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA.

For more information and to sign up download ANYTOWN Reunion Registration Form NCCJ 2012 and check out our event on Facebook.

Contact Muneer Panjwani with any questions or to just say hi. – 860-683-1039 ext. 102.

Why YES! Matters – A Video Series

6 Dec

Many of us have seen the It Gets Better videos that have inspired and given hope to countless people, young and old, that things get better and they do not need to take drastic measures to deal with the trauma of bullying and harassment.  I loved watching many of these videos, and quietly wished that I had seen some of these when I was in high school.  Though hope for a brighter future is an important factor in making life-altering decisions, it simply isn’t enough.  I had a young leader in 9th grade say to me, “I don’t know if I can wait three more years for it to get better.”  That hit a nerve in me.

I thought again about my experience in high school getting teased, pushed, and avoided consistently.  Then I heard a bunch of the young leaders around me talk about all the things they’re doing in their school as part of their GSA’s, Diversity Clubs, ANYTOWN clubs, etc. and it was clear to them that they weren’t telling any one to wait.  They were taking the initiative to make it better.  They were organizing after-school meetings with school faculty to educate them on LGBT terminology, they were leading dialogues on what bullying looks like in their school at their advisories, they were creating poster campaigns to educate people about the cycle of oppression, they were going up to people sitting by themselves at lunch, they were asking their school cafeteria to have a “diversity lunch,” and they were being true role models by celebrating the unique qualities that make them just them.

They were doing all this because they wanted that “hope” to come earlier, to come now.  And, these are the youth who envisioned, planned, and launched The YES! Campaign in October.  Why do they believe in the POWER of YES!?  Watch the Videos to find out and share your comments and feelings in the comments below!

(Muneer Panjwani)


Youth taking ACTION to end Youth Homelessness – Upcoming Event

1 Dec

Youth homelessness, but why?

3rd Annual Youth Homelessness and Hunger Summit

Three years ago, students at Classical Magnet High School in Hartford Connecticut, many of whom where ANYTOWN alums, got together to talk about youth homelessness.  They found that Youth homelessness is a problem nationwide, but it is hardly discussed. The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that about 5 to 8% (about 1 to 1.5 million) of our nation’s youth experience one night of homelessness each year.


So they said they want to take ACTION to raise awareness and educate the community about this issue.  Under the leadership of Dr. Monica Brase (an ANYTOWN advisor for 5 years!) they put together a Youth Homelessness and Hunger Summit inviting community leaders and youth to participate learning the reality of youth homelessness and what we can do to stop it.  The last two years have been a huge success with many youth leaders facilitating workshops, engaging in discussions, all the while sleeping outside to see what if feels like to be homeless for one night.  Suffice it to say, it’s been a powerful learning experience for many.

The ACTION Against Youth Homelessness and Hunger (AAYHH) group is hosting the 3rd Annual Youth Homelessness and Hunger Summit at The Lyceum in Hartford Connecticut on December 10th, 2011 from 9:30AM-2:00PM.  The summit is open to youth and young adults ages 12 and up.  Youth leaders in AAYHH will facilitate workshops to broaden understanding of youth homelessness and hunger.  Resource materials will also be available.  For more information or to register, please go to or contact Dr. Monica Brase at 860-695-7203 or at or Patrick Bracken at (860) 695-9238.

Homeless Youth Summit Dec 2011 Flyer

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