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The Desert, My Mom, and Me, by Trenton Good of City High Radio

May 31, 2012 in Youthcast by Emily

I might as well get out with it — this is my last podcast for Youthcast. Two and a half weeks ago I packed up my stuff and moved from Boston, MA to Concord, NH, in order to report on NH economics for NPR's StateImpact project. The piece we're featuring today — by City High Radio's Trenton Good — is my favorite youthcast piece yet. In fact, I've been saving it up for over a month now, in order to end with a bang.

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Let me tell you why this piece was so important to me. See — I was the kid who wanted to get good grades in grade school, so that I'd be prepared for high school, so that I'd be prepared for college, so I'd be prepared to get my dream job, so that I'd be prepared to have a family. The lesson I've been learning for the last 10 years is that you can't spend all your time preparing for the future — because who you are and what you want today will probably not be the same by the time that future comes around.

But some habits are hard to break. When I'm working on a radio story and the punch line I had prepared for doesn't materialize, I'm likely to bang my head against the wall for a good week before I look around enough to find another door.

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Trenton Good is my exact opposite — not just because he's more likely to be enjoying the outdoors than doing homework. Trenton made this radio story by being open to inspiration. And he made it great by letting the moment guide him.

It all started when Trent skipped school. He had a radio assignment that wasn't going anywhere, and after his radio teacher, Sarah Bromer, asked him why he skipped school the next day, they threw out the old assignment and dove into the story that was right in front of them. Why had Trent skipped school that day?

But it doesn't end there. Instead of sitting down and writing a script the way most radio producers do, Trent started out just telling his story into the microphone. Then, he used that very real version of his story to shape a script that had the pieces he liked, and sounded authentic. More authentic, surely, than a script would be that was typed first and recorded later.

Trent is a natural at living in the moment. His lesson is like my lesson, but in reverse. Trent told me that producing this piece taught him that he does need to try in school, no matter how much he doesn't like it, because he needs to be prepared for college, so that he can be prepared to get a job he likes.

But I don't want to get carried away with didactic life lessons. The reason you should listen to Trent's piece is to enjoy his creative, introspective honesty. It's not something you hear from a 16 year old everyday.

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Check back right here for the next Youthcast! And keep in touch on Twitter, Facebook, or by leaving a comment right here. While we're gone, listen to HowSound, the backstory to great radio storytelling. And thanks for listening!

View from Tumamoc Hill was shot by Trenton Good. Image of Trenton was shot by Sarah Bromer.

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Rerun: To Bet Or Not To Bet, by Vincent Geary of Brooklyn College Radio

May 16, 2012 in Youthcast by Emily

Like many Americans, state governments are struggling with debt, and getting creative about solutions. One such solution is to legalize internet gambling. With bills moving forward in California, Illinois and New Jersey, it seemed like a good time to look back at a piece by college student and internet gambler, Vincent Geary. The following was originally published on November 30th, 2011.

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Earlier this month, 64% of voters in New Jersey passed a ballot measure that made sports betting legal at casinos and racetracks in their state. The only problem is — the federal government still says sports betting is illegal. Who's right?

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"Who cares?" might be a better question, at least for regular sports betters like Brooklyn College Radio's Vincent Geary. Vincent told me in an interview this week that in his community in Rockaway, Queens, lots of people bet on sports. For some it's a hobby, for some it's a sport, and yes, for others it's an addiction. But for everybody, it's totally out in the open — and as far as they're concerned, it's legal. That's because of the thousands of international online gambling websites through which bookmakers and gamblers settle their bets these days.

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Vincent studies radio at City University of New York in Brooklyn. He told me he didn't expect his college radio class to be so surprised that he was a regular gambler. So, for Vincent's final project, he decided to capture the nature of gambling in his community in Rockaway NY. He told me: "Gambling has a very negative connotation… and I just wanted to put it out there and have people decide on their own."
So have a listen. And stay tuned for my interview with Vincent at the end of the podcast.

Online gambling image by Orin Zebest, Bookie image by flickr_lifeshots.


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Little Lost Fish, by Marga Blanco of Youth Media Project

May 2, 2012 in Youthcast by Emily

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Margo Blanco may be small, but she isn't shy. Last summer, not long after moving from her home in the Philippines to Santa Fe, NM, Margo went with her Youth Media Project Summer Intensive class on a field trip to Albuquerque. There, she stood on the street with a tape recorder, asking strangers: "have you ever felt like you are little in this world?"

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Surely anyone who moves across the world knows what it's like to feel little. In fact, in the previous episode of Youthcast, Jacob Holley-Kline talked about how traveling to a new place made him feel like a baby — knowing little about where he was, who he'd meet or what was expected of him. But, as Marga discovered talking to people on the streets of Albuquerque, you don't have to travel across the world to feel humbled by its size. We all feel small sometimes.

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Marga seems to be a born reporter. When I asked her if she felt nervous or awkward sticking a microphone in front of all of those strangers — having just stepped off a plane from the Philippines — she said "I think, for me, it comes naturally." That might be because she's been reporting for school papers and making radio back home since she was in the 5th grade. Marga also likes to work in visual media, and created an animation in Photoshop that accompanies her piece.
Have a look!

Fish image by Flickr_Wonderlane

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My Time in Greece, by Jacob Holley-Kline of Alaska Teen Media Institute

April 18, 2012 in Youthcast by Emily

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Last month, Jacob Holley-Kline went on a school trip to Greece. He had worked all of the previous summer to pay travel expenses. When he got there, he was stunned by the beauty of the place. "The water looked like a melted gemstone or something. Like congealed tanzanite," Jacob told me. But something was bothering him. Why does he get to go to Greece, and other folks don't? Did he deserve to be there?

This is the question Jacob puzzles over in this beautifully written and delivered commentary, from the Alaska Teen Media Institute.


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While Jacob was in Greece, he kept a diary — writing between 5 and 9 pages every day. "As it stands now," Jacob said, " the whole 8 or 9 days is a complete blur."

So how did he decide which details, from all those pages of writing, he should include in a three-minute commentary? "After living in Alaska for my whole life, there's a lot of beauty here, but it's a totally different kind of beauty than in Greece…. So I tried to find the aspects of it that seemed the most unreal. And this is what it came down to."

Jacob also wanted to shout out to Robert Stormo and Rosey Robards at the Alaska Teen Media Institute, "for making me write this — or not making me, but pushing me to write it — because it is one of the reasons I'm able to appreciate the trip as much as I did."

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Hallelujah the Saviors are Here, by Rachel Smith of Louder Than a Bomb 2012

April 4, 2012 in Youthcast by Emily

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When Rachel Smith's older sister was a second-semester high school senior, she and her classmates started to "senior slide." They had been going to school for 13 years, graduation was on its way, and heck, it was warm outside. So when one of her teachers found her students unprepared for class, and announced: "I know everyone has been giving up on you for your entire life, but I’m not going to give up on you," the students in the class were offended.

They were being lazy; not hopeless.

According to Rachel, who is the chief poet at Kenwood Academy's Epic Sound slam poetry team, that kind of thing happens a lot when privileged young people come to teach in what she calls "inner city" schools. So Rachel decided to write a poem about it.

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It's not every week that we feature a poet on Youthcast, but this week it seems appropriate. First of all, an incredible collection of young peoples' slam poetry performances has just been uploaded to PRX. It includes all of the finalists from this year's Louder Than a Bomb (LTAB) competition. Louder Than a Bomb is an annual teen poetry festival and competition that began in 2001. Last year, a feature-length documentary came out about the competition. The trailer is below, along with a link to Generation PRX's profile of the film and words from LTAB's founder, Kevin Coval.

Chicago Public Radio's Robin Amer describes the festival as "competitive, raw, and onstage, it’s a medium that has helped thousands of teenagers channel their budding identities, intense personal feelings and emerging political world views in recited verse." Rachel Smith is one of those teenagers — she says that participating in LTAB helped build her confidence in herself and in her community. Rachel says LTAB "gives teens an opportunity to speak on politics, and a lot of time grownups who wouldn’t listen to teenagers, and it would be put off as something that the youth are complaining about, but now we have a real voice."

Watch the documentary trailer, and read about it on Signal, Generation PRX's newsletter.

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Broken Notes by Kamna Shastri of RadioActive

March 21, 2012 in Youthcast by Emily

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Kamna Shastri makes music, and she makes radio. The main difference between these endeavors, she says, is that she makes radio for an audience whom she has to make certain will understand the ideas she's trying to communicate. The music she makes just for herself. Lately, Kamna's been making a lot of radio about music.

In this week's Youthcast, we'll hear about two of Kamna's stories, as well as musical arrangements*. The first story is about an a cappella group that one of Kamna's friends belongs to. The group combines Indian music and western music, the two traditions Kamna grew up studying — so Kamna knew a lot about the subject before gathering her tape. This piece is abbreviated in the podcast, so be sure to check out the full version, below.

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The other story is about a man who lovingly recycles old pianos, a person and subject that were wholly unfamiliar to Kamna until she got working on the story. Kamna says that in the beginning, interviewing her friend was easier than interviewing the piano repairman, since Kamna says she can be shy with strangers, especially at first. Plus, she already had a deep understanding of Indian and western music and cultures, so she knew which questions were likely to be fruitful.

However, Kamna says something really special happens once she's deep into an interview with somebody she doesn't already know. She says "something happens in my mind where I have no sense of myself, where any sort of judgment or me sticking to my opinions (I tend to be sort of opinionated) all of that sort of drops when I’m putting the story together, and in a way their story becomes — almost — my story."

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*In the podcast, a musical work by A.R. Rahman was accidentally attributed to Shastri. The performance and arrangement are Shastri's.

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Bullied: Teen Stories from GenerationPRX, with hosts Council Brandon and Peython Echelson-Russell

March 7, 2012 in Youthcast by Emily

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Bullying is a hot topic these days. In fact, 5 newspapers have published stories about bullying in the last hour, judging from my Google results.  Until now, much of the national conversation was being carried out by the people who understood it the least: adults.  As Council Brandon — one of the people featured in this week's podcast — put it to me:

“You may be an adult and you were bullied in high school or middle school, but that was a long time ago,” she continued, “there wasn’t the media of today, the environment wasn’t the same, so I think until you’ve actually experienced it in this time, you can’t discuss it very accurately.”

Council Brandon and co-host Peython Echelson-Russell are in high school. They know what it’s like to be bullied, and to be a bully.  Together they hosted Bullied: Teen Stories from Generation PRX, an hour-long documentary featuring stories by and about young people, across the nation and the world. Bullied was produced by Catie Talarski and Connecticut Public Radio, and is presented by PRX.  In this week’s podcast, I speak with Council and Peython to find out what it’s like to host a documentary — especially when the subject is close to your heart.

Get the backstory on how this project came together on the Generation PRX website, and check out 7 other curated hour-long youth specials on the PRX website.

Our podcast, including Segment A of the documentary:

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The full documentary:

Image: Council Brandon, provided by Connecticut Public Radio.

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The Words of Our Parents by Grace Edgerton of City High Radio

February 22, 2012 in Youthcast by Emily

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Perfection isn't easy. In fact, even attempting perfection is usually really hard. Last year Grace Edgerton spent a whole year producing only two stories in her radio production class at City High Radio, the charter high school she attends in Tuscon, AZ. The one we're featuring is a short Vox Pop about kids and their parents. "It was long, it was awful," Grace says about the production process. "There was this one particular thing that dragged out for like three weeks, where we couldn't decide on the ending song."

In the end, though, Grace says it was worth it to produce something really, really good. And that is exactly what her Vox Pop is.

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Vox Pop? It's short for Vox Populi, or voice of the people. Technically, this is just a "man on the street" interview, which can be spliced into any kind of TV or radio story. But most often "Vox Pop" refers to a specific style of radio story, in which the producer asks one compelling question to a slew of different people, artfully cuts together the answers, adds some music, and voila! They've produced a Vox Pop. It sounds easy, right? And it is — easier, that is, than producing a short documentary, for example. That's why so many teachers use Vox Pops to teach their students the art of making radio.

Below we've collected a list of some of our favorite Vox Pop pieces and moments. We'd like to add yours to the list! Have you produced a Vox Pop you'd like to share? Or perhaps you've heard one and just loved it. Let us know! Post the piece on our Facebook page and we'll add it to our list pronto.

I Wish by Samantha Broun

Awesome Pope from NPR, excerpted by Roman Mars

Why We Wear Baggy Pants by Curie Youth Radio

What's Divorce Like For You? by Youth Radio Vermont

Skull 'N' Bones by Kerri Seed

Three Days Before Christmas in the Zombie Hut by Brendan Greeley

Grace Edgerton is in the image above, at the far right.

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La Oportunidad, by Victoria Campos of University of Texas

February 8, 2012 in Youthcast by Emily

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Maria Isabel wasn't supposed to finish the 6th grade. She lived in a tiny mountain ranch in Mexico, where girls stayed home to cook and raise children. If her father had had his way, that's exactly what she would have done.

Instead, Maria Isabel went to a private high school, moved to the United States, and got a college degree. Now, she's a registered nurse living a comfortable life in Texas, where her daughter is studying radio, TV and film at the University of Texas. Her daughter Victoria Campos, that is — the featured producer of this week's Youthcast.

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This story is like a three-layer-cake labor of love. Layer one: Victoria is interviewing her mom, whom Victoria describes as "such an inspirational figure in my life." Layer two: Victoria's mom is sharing an intimate story about two strangers who became very dear to her heart. And finally, layer three: it was while recording and editing this piece that Victoria fell in love with making radio. She told me, "I would go to the studio at 1pm and come out at 9pm and not even realize I had spent that much time in there. Throughout the process of editing this story, I realized that I was doing something I really loved."

So have a listen!

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Once you've listened, consider this:
What makes this story work for you? Are there other perspectives you might like to hear in addition to Maria Isabel's? Leave a comment here, or tell us what you think on Facebook or Twitter.

Image at top: Victoria and Maria Isabel. Image below: Victoria.

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Advertising in Schools by Aviva Hirsch of Alaska Teen Media Institute

January 25, 2012 in Youthcast by Emily

Would a high school nutrition teacher think twice before condemning Coca Cola if she knew her paycheck was paid for, in part, by Coca Cola? Could a locker bank covered in advertisements affect High School students' spending behavior? What about ads in an Elementary School?

When the real estate bubble popped and property values plummeted, schools across the country saw their budgets shrink — a lot. Now, many schools whose policies prohibited advertising are reassessing, hoping to replace lost tax revenue with income from corporate advertisers. Just this week the Phillipsburg, NJ school board unanimously approved an agreement with a corporate advertising agency, and the town of New Trier, IL began discussing a similar agreement — something hitherto prohibited by the school board's policies.

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In Anchorage, Alaska Teen Media Institute's Aviva Hirsch set out to understand everything about the issue of advertising in schools. Check out her story:

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In our interview, included in the podcast, Aviva mentioned to me that despite the fact that she interviewed 11 people — more than she could fit in the story — she still wishes she had been able to include the perspective of a student who was really affected by the advertisements in his/her school. We hope you can help us out!

If you have attended a school that advertises on school property, we want you to get in touch. Join our discussion about advertising in schools on Facebook.