If you love the Harry Potter books and movies, then you may be interested to learn more about the universities throughout the United Kingdom that inspired the story. Want to learn more about the setting for the newest film? Ever wonder who designed Hogwarts, or which British professor was the source for Albus Dumbledore?

Well, you can find the answers to these questions and more on the British Council’s website which features behind the scenes trivia for the latest installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the rest of the series.  And if you’re interested in studying filmmaking, animation, or set design, you can find out which UK universities contributed to the creation of the films.

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I just discovered Create A Skate.org - a very cool organization devoted to teaching junior high and high school students how to make skateboards.  It’s started by Paul Schmitt, considered the “godfather” of skateboards, whose company in 2005 manufactured its 10 millionth board!!!

The idea is that teachers incorporate Create A Skate lessons into their classroom so that every student gets to make their own board from scratch while learning about concepts in math, science, art and design, not to mention physical education once the board is completed!

After reading through their website, I wanted to make a skateboard of my own, but it turns out that would require me going back to high school since the Create A Skate program is only available in classrooms.  If you are a junior high or high school student who would like to get this program on your campus, then visit Create A Skate and download the student petition form. I just might have to crash your class.

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If you’ll be in or near the Santa Monica area this July, and you’re looking for a fun weekend activity my friend Rebecca Heller (author of “Surf Like a Girl”) is hosting a surf workshop along with Perfect Day Surf Camp where you can learn to surf in an all female, non-competitive and girl friendly environment.   It’s sponsored by Roxy and here are all the details for the weekend:

Who: All the ladies (ages 17 and up, please)
When: Saturday, July 18 and Sunday, July 19
Time: 9 - 11am  (Please arrive by 8:45am)
Where: Santa Monica Beach, Parking Lot #9 North of the Pier
What to bring: Wear a bathing suit and sunscreen. Bring a towel and water. We will supply wetsuits and foam surfboards.
Cost: $150 both days/$80 one day

If this sounds like fun (and trust me, it will be!) then email Rebecca (rebecca [at] surflikeagirl [dot] net) to sign up for the weekend. Maybe I’ll see you out on the waves!

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On Monday President Obama and his administration launched “United We Serve,” a call to volunteering and making a difference in our communities. And to support this endeavor employees from Craigslist, FanFeedr, Google, UCLA, and YouTube donated their time to create All for Good, a new volunteer search application which helps users find opportunities to serve within their communities and around the nation.

There you can search for service projects using key terms like education, hunger, nature, animals; find opportunities in your zip code; share your projects with your friends; or track specific volunteer activities.

If you’re looking for the perfect summer volunteer opportunity, All for Good is a great place to start. And check out First Lady Michelle Obama’s inspiring message about community service. In her words, “America’s new foundation will be built one community at a time, and it starts with you.”

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MTV News is searching for the Class of ‘09 Valedictorian - a high school student from this year’s graduating class who can put to words what it means to be part of the class of ‘09.

Want to enter? Just go to your.mtv.com to create a user account and upload your video (which should be no longer than three minutes) and answer the question: “What are the defining factors of your generation, and how are these factors reflected in the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the class of ‘09?”

The winner will be flown to New York for lunch with Sway and a taping of the brand new MTV series “It’s On with Alexa Chung.” The winning video will also appear on MTVNews.com and may even air on MTV!

So if you think you have what it takes to represent the Class of ‘09, get your video uploaded by June 30th! Good luck!

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“Just in time for summer, Simon and Schuster has launched a new teen online reading community called Pulse It. It’s dedicated to teens aged 14-18 and seems like a cool opportunity to get early access to new books, write and submit reviews, earn points, win monthly giveaways, and interact with featured authors. Right now, one of the featured titles is Pure by Terra Elan McVoy which takes on the hot topic of purity rings. To start reading the newest teen books online for free, join the Pulse It community.

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Earlier this year, I posted a link to the Save Me A Spot in College Scholarship Contest, and now I have to share a video from one of the grand prize winners.  I think it is truly awesome!

You Gotta Get in Line - Orange County - Middle School - Grand Prize Nominee from Campaign for College Opportunity on Vimeo.

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Here’s two more to add to your list.  College Prowler holds a monthly essay contest with the winner receiving a $2,000 scholarship. The great thing about this contest is that you can submit the best essay you wrote for school, a college application, or your favorite journal entry.  It just has to be 1,000 words or less - but the catch is you can only enter once each calendar year.  The next deadline is May 31st.

College Prowler’s other giveaway is the “No Essay $2,000 Scholarship.” Just fill out the entry form at College Prowler, and you could have the chance to win some cash for college.  The next deadline is June 15th.

Good luck!!!

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If you’re interested in working with non-profit, government or social enterprise organizations, then check out the newly launched Jobs for Change website started by Change.org.  The site allows you to search for the latest job opportunities in categories like Activism and Organizing, Communications, Graphic Design, Event Planning, Finance, Public Policy, and Marketing - and all at companies dedicated to public service.

Besides the latest job listings, Jobs for Change also give users the opportunity to get advice from college students, career advisors, and potential employers,  ask questions of expert career guides, and browse through a list of popular career topics. Not only is this a great resource for job-hunting, but it’s such a cool way to find opportunities where your talents can make a difference in the world.

nonprofit and social enterprise jobs

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I’m a huge advocate of using film to raise awareness about important issues, so I was super excited to hear about Scenarios USA, a non-profit organization that holds an annual story, play, and scriptwriting contest for youth (ages 12-22) called “What’s the REAL DEAL?”  Teens have the opportunity to share their perspectives on the issues that today’s youth face, and the winning entries are then directed and produced by some of Hollywood’s finest talent and are ultimately distributed at film festivals, high schools, and other outlets across the country.  Some of last year’s films were directed by Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace), Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity), Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball), and Gina Prince-Blythewood (The Secret Life of Bees).

These short films address topics like communication, relationships, and decision-making and open up conversations about issues like STDs, teen pregnancy, body image and a host of other experiences written from a teen’s perspective. You can check out the inspiring short films on the Scenarios USA website, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the next contest deadline.

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