Amplifying Teen Voices on Education and Tech

The past couple months have been hectic, but we are finally getting in the thick of it.

This year for my Active Voice project I’m working with 9th grade girls at Foshay High School to create a mini podcast series. I’m helping them to write their podcasts, record them, and edit everything together.

We spent the first couple of meetings going over the First Amendment and why freedom of speech is a vital tool for them to have. Coincidentally these meetings coincided with them learning about the First Amendment at school, so they were already pretty knowledgable about the nuances of it as well.

The group is made up of 7 girls who are in the NAI program at Foshay High School. Because they already attend classes on USC’s campus, we can easily meet after school. To make it easier on myself and on the girls, I broke them up into 2 groups, based on what day they could meet. We figured out that the best days that work are Mondays and Wednesdays, so in January we met to figure out themes for the episodes.

I had asked each of them to brainstorm some ideas for what they wanted the podcasts to be about over break, and everybody came with more than enough.

For both groups we began going around and sharing our ideas. I told them before we started that they could either individually produce a smaller episode, more like a commentary, or as a group we could collectively choose a couple of themes to focus on and which every girl would write about.

As we began brainstorming (we used whiteboards to easily map out themes and explain ideas to each other), there were some clear themes that both the Monday and Wednesday group were interested in talking about. Many of the girls spoke about the program they were in, and how much pressure they are under. They spoke about the importance of art and how they wish they had more creative outlets at school. Others spoke about growing up in LA and the stereotypes they felt like they heard about all the time but never saw in the world around them. We talked about beauty ideals (they had a lot to say about the Kardashians), and about current social justice movements like #MeToo and equal representation of races and ethnicities in the media.

Each group settled on two themes that they wanted to talk about. In Mondays group they settled on the topics of education and technology. They are going to produce the episode about education first, and they are going to be talking about the value of education and a way in which education could be improved in their environment. Then they are going to create an episode based on their concerns about technology and the ways in which they can envision it being used for good as well. In Wednesdays group they decided to produce an episode about representation in the media and about LA culture. Specifically, they want to talk about various forms of the media where they see a lack of representation.

Over the next month we are learning how to record, edit, and write scripts that speak to their topics. I’m excited to hear what they are going to produce!

Sabby Robinson is an Active Voice fellow. She studies journalism at the University of Southern California.