From Video Game Addiction to Asian Americans in Films, KALW Summer School Student’s Stories Hit Home Runs
By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio; Holly J. McDede and Marisol Medina Cadena, KALW Summer Internship Instructors
School’s back in session, and we celebrated at KALW by running student stories. This summer, as we’ve written about in previous posts, we hosted six teenagers from the San Francisco Unified School District in our newsroom and taught them the ins and outs of audio journalism.
How did it work? I’ll let our instructors, Holly J. McDede and Marisol Medina Cadena, tell the story:
Holly: The first day of the high school summer internship, Marisol and I gathered six high school students inside the storage-space-turned-classroom, which we call “the Palace.” Everything seemed to impress them: the existence of real-life audio engineers, the recording studios, the equipment, the journalists! I told them that by the end of the six-week internship, they would produce their own radio stories, too. One of the interns looked frightened, and said, “That sounds like a threat.”
Marisol: At first we wanted to just get a sense of what the students were interested in. So, we exposed them to different types of audio stories to see what themes, structure, tone, and sound design style they responded most to. Every morning we started our class by listening to two or three radio stories or a podcast. We then would go around in a circle to talk about what stood out to them from the piece and would it be a technique they could try in their own piece. Once they pitched their stories, our assignments were much more tailored to each student. For example, my students who chose to do pieces about their families, I had them do radio dairies. From those reflections, we would come up with the questions they were going to ask their families.
Holly: The students all got on really well together and had a lot to say. Every morning we talked about the news, and they excitedly chirped their opinions on all the issues of the day, everything from the weirdness of high school teachers to the Trump Administration to gun violence to class communists to the murder of Nia Wilson.
Marisol: What impressed me about our students was that they were really engaged the whole time. Even though some were shy, if you called on them they had really great things to say. During our sit-in with KALW’s live daily show “Your Call,” they all got quiet when the producer asked them to submit questions about homelessness. Our students were really nervous but in the end they asked really thoughtful questions — like what are individual ways to help combat the larger issue of homelessness.
Holly: What surprised me most was the ideas they came up with for radio stories: a castle owned by a cop; Asian American representation in film; game addiction; a mother’s immigrant experience; displacement to the suburbs; and teenage vaping.
Marisol: The last two weeks zoomed by, and there was never a moment our students weren’t busy working away on their stories. Unfortunately, an interview for one of my students fell through — multiple times — so we really had to come up with a backup plan. It was a good teaching moment, learning to adapt your story when your main interview subjects drop out. And the students had a great can-do attitude about it all.
Holly: By the last day, I was exhausted, and nearly falling down with pride. I wish I could hang up all their radio stories on my refrigerator. My favorite thing: a card from one of the high schoolers, saying, “Because of this internship, I feel like radio might be a career I will pursue.”
Marisol: I was really proud to hear their stories finally air! From start to finish they put so much effort into reporting and it shows. Their stories are a testament to their curiosity, compassion, and courage to try something brand new and excel at it! Plus, it’s not everyday we get to listen to youth perspectives on the air. They have given us listeners a wonderful gift for our ears.
What a great learning experience. And what a great summer! Ready to listen to some stories? Check these out, produced by our summer high school class of 2018!
Where are Asian Americans like me on the big screen? – Ashlee Nguyen
Is it us, or is it the video games? – Jiahao Chen
The history of a hidden castle in Hunters Point – Zoe Burleson
Discovering my mother’s homeland – Christopher Olvera
The struggle to relocate after a lifetime in San Francisco – Julian Rodriguez