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Ribbon HUNDRED 2020
Live and on-demand broadcast of original writing, music, roundtable discussions, and journalism from area teens.

Youth Express

Pittsburgh, United States
When youth realize that their voice matters, they realize that they matter. Since 2013, Youth Express has used tools of radio to create and distribute commentaries, discussions, documentaries, and other youth-generated content through a 24/7 radio station available on standard radio apps for smartphones and connected cars, a custom mobile app, social media, and on the web at

How can we modernize the tradition of radio storytelling to amplify youth voices and reach adult audiences who need to hear these voices the most?

Alexandra Sorce, 17, Radio Documentary Producer
“I built a sense of awareness and an urge to learn more about the voices in my community. Youth Express strengthened my group work skills, ability to talk with strangers, and media making skills.”

Alexandra Sorce, 17, Radio Documentary Producer

Youth are talked about, studied, marketed to, worried over, and blamed for almost everything. They are usually asked for their thoughts only in times of crisis or when there is money to be made from them. Youth Express demonstrates that youth voice matters all of the time. 

Youth Express is not simply about creating radio targeted to youth; rather, it focuses on disseminating the voices of youth to new audiences (including adults) while promoting intellectual, creative and professional growth, all in a way that stresses learning -- for media makers and listeners

Youth Express operates from independent studios in an urban setting on Pittsburgh's Northside and brings together students from different neighborhoods, backgrounds, and school districts as they interact and learn from one another.

Why radio in the age of ubiquitous digital cameras and YouTube? Simply stated, radio is a tremendous equalizer; all can participate regardless of physical capabilities or appearance. Radio stresses the use of fundamental language and communications skills. With the trappings of television lighting, set design, and graphic enhancement removed, radio allows makers – and listeners – the opportunity to use imagination in a provocative way that not only entertains, but also engages and educates.  Radio also provides a degree of privacy to the creator that often is impossible with other media. It is the perfect balance -- and also is a cost-effective medium for information gathering, preparation, and dissemination. 

Youth Express is the result of a bold initiative to create a 24/7 Internet radio service that delivers essays, poems, theater, music and other original works created by area youth. Making youth expression available and prominent achieves multiple goals: 

  • Participating youth sharpen skills (e.g., interviewing, writing, speaking, persuasiveness, editing, teamwork, deadline compliance) that support academic standards, 21st century skills and college/workforce readiness. 
  • Providing a distribution method and audience for student work helps all students aspire to share thoughts and ideas, write clearly and become more engaged with their community. 
  • Showcasing youth voice helps (1) eliminate preconceived notions about neighborhoods, ethnic or racial background, and other factors, (2) improve overall understanding and empathy for people whose situations are different than their own, and (3) inform other generations about youth-centric issues. 
  • Use of radio is economical, ensures privacy, simplifies acquisition/delivery, and embraces the growing market for content for smartphones, podcasts and Internet-equipped car radios.

While some Youth Express students have gone on to journalism or broadcasting careers, Youth Express is not a career training program. Rather, it is a platform that recognizes that all youth have an authentic voice that warrants dissemination. 

Finally, in a time when civil dialogue and cultural understanding may be at an all-time low, Youth Express builds connections and empathy. Our platform welcomes and blends audio created by  students from urban, rural and suburban schools. We also host meetups and special programs to encourage cross-school collaboration. Students and listeners alike have told us that they have experienced increased empathy and understanding when they hear authentic audio from real youth, often hearing someone from a different neighborhood or background for the first time. Educators have used specific Youth Express audio for professional development.

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Innovation Overview
Target Group
18 000
1 314
Tips for implementation
SLB Radio Productions resources available to the hundrED community include (1) a wealth of proven curricula, worksheets and projects, (2) our Youth Express platform that provides a 24/7 stream for broadcast of prerecorded and live youth program that can be accessed at, Tune In, Simple Radio, Streema and other national services), (3) a dedicated Youth express app making it simple to listen to live and on-demand features, (4) a weekly anthology Youth Express podcast, and (5) recommendations for equipment at virtually any budget level. We also offer training and professional development as well as the opportunity to disseminate work from other organizations across our network.
Contact information

See this innovation in action

Celebrating the Class of 2020
Youth Express Listens
Scalability, Sharing and Professional Development
Larry Berger
Intentional growth and scale...
Walk-up satellite studio...
Review: Amplifying youth voices
Review: Programs that cross boundaries
Streaming 24/7


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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Establish adult and youth champions to start the program
A program like Youth Express requires champions -- people who believe in the power of youth voice to inform, educate and transform.
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Create a trusted space for sharing and recording
While it's exciting to start with microphones, mixers, streaming methods and project ideas, success requires first establishing an environment that ensures trust, mutual respect, boundaries, and a sense of belonging as well as one in which good quality recordings are possible.
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Establish a cohort of students and meet regularly
Starting with an initial cohort -- and simple recordings -- will help build trust, confidence, a sense of belonging, and creativity.
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Establish a routine for recording, publishing, listening
Regular listening and recording sessions that build on each prior week help students build rapport, confidence and ideas.
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Add special projects as teens gain experience
Now it's time to put skills, knowledge and passion to use as we create for an audience beyond peers.
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Broaden distribution and participation
Distribute final work products to an audience beyond student peers.
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