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When Youth Know Their Voice Matters, They Know That They Matter

20.2.2021 | BY LARRY BERGER

In celebration of World Social Justice Day, we have released two articles, which look at innovations working to provide equal opportunities to all students, especially to those who have been denied basic rights and discriminated against. This Internationally recognized awareness day was created by The United Nations (UN) is dedicated to battling for the greater good by fighting poverty, unemployment, upholding human rights, and promoting Gender Equality.


At SLB Radio, we believe that all people – including youth -- have the capacity to develop their authentic voice and know that their voice can be used for self-expression, inquiry, and change. Amplifying voices of youth is critical to creating a society where empathy, civility, and social justice are valued and practiced. We created Youth Express as a 24/7 Internet radio station and on-demand platform for delivering youth documentaries, commentaries, observations, music, and more to adults and peers. 

Why radio? Simply stated, the medium is a tremendous equalizer. All can participate regardless of physical capabilities or appearance. Youth focus on honing and expressing their ideas, simultaneously sharpening core life skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking, and persuasion) rather than fretting about how they look or are dressed. With a bit of training and encouragement – and relatively inexpensive equipment -- youth can also create high-quality, award-winning work without barriers of entry that other mediums bring. Mastery comes quickly with students feeling a sense of ownership and pride in their work after a relatively short investment of time in developing basic skills such as microphone usage, audio recording and editing, and publishing. 

The medium also provides opportunities for students to dive deeper into technical and creative opportunities such as radio dramas, podcasts, documentaries, and more. It is a perfect balance -- and also is a cost-effective medium for information gathering, preparation, and dissemination.

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At Youth Express, you’ll find documentaries and commentaries on topics such as community revitalization, mental health issues in rural communities, legalizing marijuana, gender identity, navigating life with an accent, and hundreds of other youth-selected topics. You can also hear excerpts from a live talk show about civil rights. The 24/7 Youth Express service is available at the Youth Express website as well as free apps such as Tune In, Simple Radio, and Radio Garden. A weekly podcast offers an anthology of youth content.

When we demonstrate to youth that their voice matters, they realize that they matter.

While we’re proud of our methods and legacy, the most important measure of our success is the impact we have on the youth we work with. Jhordan (pictured below) is a senior at Propel Andrew Street High School in Homestead, once a prominent Pittsburgh steelmaking town. “During quarantine,” she says, “there was this huge peak in the Black Lives Matter movement and everybody was focused on what had been going on for years. I talked about how I was feeling.” After sharing her thoughts in a Youth Express commentary, Jhordan talked about the impact of working with her adult mentor. 

“He heard it, helped edit it, let us listen to it, and everybody was moved by it. It went school-wide, then state-wide, then international. I really appreciate him coming in and showing that he cares about me. He’s not there just to do his job. He actually cares. That’s why I was comfortable sharing my thoughts.”

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Lance (pictured below), a junior at Fox Chapel Area High School, located in suburban Pittsburgh, has also honed new skills during his time with Youth Express. “Really listening to other people” he says, “is more difficult than it seems to be, because we don’t realize how much of the time we just zone out and think about what we’re going to say next. “It can be hard for people like me who like to talk a lot,” he laughs. “But people really value being heard. I think we don’t realize how fantastic the gift of being listened to can be. Youth Express is very good at giving us the individual freedom to do what we feel is important to cover. And to guide us…pointing us in the right direction and letting us figure it out on our own. I want to go into broadcast journalism. That’s why this experience has been so rewarding. 

Journalism is a great privilege. There’s a lot of trust involved. If I’m interviewing you, I’m going to do my best to tell your story.”

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Speaking to a group of Youth Express students you come to understand how important it is to empower youth voice.  “I learned that I love talking to people and getting their opinions and stories,” says Maeren, another Youth Express student. She adds, “Youth Express introduced me to the world of journalism and writing interesting stories worth listening to.” 

Wesleyseated next to Maeren in the photo below says, “It was easy to be creative because I never felt pressured to perform or complete my project in a certain amount of time. There is always another day or another time we could come and pick up where we left off.” Maggie added “this being my second year, I felt more empowered and excited. And I learned more about myself and my creativity.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Larry Berger is the Executive Director/Founder, SLB Radio Productions and Youth Express, Pittsburgh, PA USA, larry@slbradio.org


ABOUT AUTHOR
Larry Berger