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By Martha Sessums, President, ACE
After nine months of work, the KALW Audio Academy Class of 2019 graduated on Tuesday, June 17. As Ben Trefny, KALW News Director, bragged, it’s the sixth graduating Audio Academy class and ACE can brag too as we have supported the Audio Academy since its inception.
A major part of the Audio Academy’s inception was driven by Holly Kernan, currently KQED’s Chief Content Officer. Six years ago, Holly was News Director at KALW. As a part of her focus on a public interest newsroom, she convinced the ACE board that it needed to support the Audio Academy as a part of ACE’s focus on education. A couple of years later, Holly moved to KQED but the Audio Academy continued to grow in excellence.
This year, Kernan was the Keynote Speaker at the graduation. Her focus was to give advice, and it ranged from “do work you believe in” to “don’t eat spinach salad at a business lunch.” (We all understand that green chunks stuck in teeth ruin a smile.)
There were lots of pieces of advice, but the ones that seemed to create the most nodding heads (beside the one about spinach salad) were:
1. The media tends to support the status quo in news, so question that status quo
2. Follow the golden rule
3. Sound way smarter (on radio) than you are
4. But do not copy someone else’s voice – be authentic and find your own voice
5. Write out loud – write into the paper so it sounds good on radio
6. Negotiate your salary when hired – it’s your best chance
7. Deal with rejection and failure by learning from it and pushing through
8. The key to gratitude is happiness
The way that the Audio Academy works is that each Fellow is assigned a Mentor. As Hana Baba, Host of Crosscurrents and MC of the graduation said, “All the work was done by the Radio Dulas.” The Dulas are the team of Fellow/Mentor and, as is tradition, each Mentor came on stage and introduced their Fellow by telling how it was to work with them and how they responded to the Audio Academy training. Each reflected the personalities of the Fellows and the Mentors, both funny and serious.
The eight Fellow’s presentations ranged from reading a poem to several touching thanks to parents in attendance to enthusiasm about “I said ass on the radio” to each Fellow having found their superpower. “AA equals Avengers Assemble – we’re here to dominate and take over,” said graduating Fellow Porfirio Rangel.
Proof that the Audio Academy works is that the majority of Fellows have professional jobs at radio stations from the local Bay Area to Atlanta or with nationally distributed radio programs or podcasts with national distribution.
As Baba said, “We make great radio.”
Congratulations to the Audio Academy Class of 2019:
By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW and JoAnn DeLuna, Audio Academy ’19 Fellow
As we wind down toward the end of our time with the Audio Academy class of 2019, it’s been a pleasure to hear the fellows finishing up sophisticated and heartfelt stories. JoAnn DeLuna is one of those folks — she moved to San Francisco from New York to take part in the program. It’s my pleasure to let her talk about her work, in her own words:
I’d like to announce that while in Audio Academy — I had twins!
No, not actual babies — radio babies. My 2-part series on sex education finally debuted at the end of May. (You can hear part 1 by clicking here, and part 2 by clicking here.) It’s been a long labor of love and took nearly as long as having a child to produce. And as with most twin scenarios, I was not initially expecting two…
I first got the idea for the story right before moving to San Francisco for Audio Academy. While still in New York, I attended a panel discussion in August full of women techies who were doing interesting things around technology and access to sex education. One of them, O.school CEO Andrea Barrica, was based in San Francisco. After hearing her journey, I knew I had to do a story about what she and other women were doing in the sexual health wellness space. What a great coincidence that I was about to move there!
Having been a print journalist, I quickly envisioned the story in my mind, whom I needed to interview, and the different perspectives I’d capture. I went about getting lost in dozens of studies, statistics, and news articles about the detrimental effects of having abstinence-only sex education — or no sex ed at all. I also cringe-binged A LOT of vintage school sex ed films, watched Netflix’s entire Sex Education series when it was first released, and listened to a lot of R&B classics to help tell the story. In total, I interviewed about nine sources for the pieces and did a dozen more pre-interviews with people who didn’t make the cut.
I never imagined it’d take me as long as it would. The more I interviewed people, the bigger my story became, and the more it reinforced my inclination to do it. Almost everyone I spoke with had a similar storyline: Because the sex education at school or at home they received wasn’t comprehensive — and instead was based on shame and outdated ideas of relationships — it took them a long time to come to terms with who they were. Still, it motivated them to make a difference. It also solidified the notion that if you can teach kids to communicate about something as awkward as sex, it also teaches them to speak up at work and stop incidents of sexual harassment, as exemplified by the #MeToo movement.
It was a lot of information to fit into one 8-minute piece, so I was relieved when my editors agreed it should be two pieces. The most challenging aspect of producing the stories was creating scenes. I had been so focused on interviewing the right people, asking the right questions, and making sure the sound was good, that it was easy to forget about audibly portraying the fun and shocking aspects of people’s stories as they told them. But, with the help and guidance of my editors Jenee Darden and Ben Trefny, and sound engineers Gabe Grabin, James Rowlands, and Tarek Fouda, my stories came alive. Thank you!
Throughout this process, I was simultaneously working on my third feature, which I’m just as eager to share, about an incredibly special community for poets of color. I was also freelancing and figuring out my next steps after Audio Academy — no wonder the stories took me so long! In the end, I figured it out. I’m excited to announce that I’ll be returning to New York in July to be Radio Diaries’ first-ever fellow. I’ve always enjoyed creating long features, whether for print or radio, so I feel incredibly grateful to work with them to produce “extraordinary stories of everyday life” and hidden moments in history as told by last-surviving witnesses.
The past eight months have simply whizzed by — it only feels like three — and I can’t believe Audio Academy is nearly over. But it makes sense. I’ve undergone so much growth and transformation and have made so many beautiful connections here with people. I’m still so happy and grateful I made the decision to move my life from New York to San Francisco. The experience is allowing me to return to my city armed with new skills. No regrets!
By Thor, ACE Poetry Contest Mascot, Oxford Day Academy
And I thought our Oxford Day Academy (ODA) students wrote epic poems. Wait until you read the winning poems written by parents from the ODA ACE Learning Center. The parents let out their emotions about their life, family and how death doesn’t mean the end of holding someone dear.
Okay, short poems, but epic messages and even more epic poetic results. Let’s let the ODA ACE Learning Center poets show off. Eeeepic!
1st Prize Winner – Leleiti Grew
2nd Prize Winner – Tevita Kioa
3rd Prize Winner – Patrisha Ragins
4th Prize Winner – Petra Reyes
The Pressure Inside
By Leleiti Grew
The pressure inside
It builds it rise
The stress inside
It builds, I cry
The loneliness inside
It builds it subsides
The emotions inside
It builds no where to confide
As I lay on the grass
Watching the flower die
I scream so loudly
Because I was that flower inside
I let out my tears
I gave my emotions and my stress
As if the world can hear my cries
As I gave my last cry and felt
So relieved soon after
Rain fell from the sky as if
It heard all of my concerns
As I looked at the flower
Expecting to see its death
It was brought to life
With the relief of my emotional debt
That’s it Done Deal
By Tevita Kioa
That’s it, done deal
The world is ending
There’s no time to hide
There’s no more pretending
Cause we’re all gonna die
There’s no point in living
For right now we’re alive
Just waiting, not riding
Not trying to survive
Too busy living
In This World
By Patrisha Ragins
In this world we are all lovers of
family. Family is very important. They are
ways that family operates. Children have
a place and adults have to build the
foundation of truth and fairness, there
is always a love for life and the life
of a child. We are family at Oxford Day
Academy this is family too! Oxford
Day Academy is an awesome school
we’re new and a moving force for the
coming years that our children will
be more educated more
equip for the real world. We are family
we are community. We are one, we are
You Are So Dear To Me
By Petra Reyes
You are so dear to me
You have always thought of me
Before thinking of you
You take care of me without
Expecting anything in return
Your unconditional love
Is amazing and give me strength
In my time of need
I know you are always with
Me even though we are apart
Even from heaven I know you are
Still looking out for me