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Monday, May 26, 2008

Cool Radio Project For Teens

Thought this little piece of audio news from my end of the planet was pretty neat.

Radio project lets teens air their ideas, concerns

Tony Ganzer
Special for The Republic
May. 26, 2008 12:00 AM

Editor's note: This article was submitted by Tony Ganzer, Morning Edition producer for KJZZ-FM (91.5). Send your education news to

In my limited experience, there's an unfortunate truth when it comes to how and when people communicate with teenagers.

You may have seen them in the mall, or maybe they've cleared your table at the local burger joint, but it seems rare to hear a teenager's point of view about issues that matter to them, in their own words.

Earlier this month, the Valley's NPR news station, KJZZ-FM (91.5), gave airtime to a few hard-working teens. Along with my duties as KJZZ's morning producer, I also steer the Sonic Roots program. I introduce students to public radio and to the skill of creating a three-minute, sound-rich radio feature. The topic is chosen by the students, and interviews are conducted mostly by the students (with a follow-up question or two from me.) And after the work, the students make it to air. The shows can be heard at

Matt Butson, a student at Coronado High School in Scottsdale, is soon heading to college, and this transition has left him feeling confused, nervous and isolated.

"I'm not sure that I want to be a starving college student," Butson says in the feature.

That's why Butson chose to speak on the air with an educational psychologist about whether his confusion is "normal" and to Arizona State University's dean of admissions about how important choosing a major really is.

Butson offered a candid view of a young adult finding his way.

"Speaking with these professionals helped me focus on my future," Butson says in his story. "Bring it on."

Two students from Dobson High School in Mesa provided a look at Valley transportation issues. Rebecca Bever and Jessica Testa spoke with representatives from the Arizona Department of Transportation, Valley Metro, Metro light rail and their own peers, exploring how teens get around and how the system should change.

"Many teens, in our informal survey, feel that a more fluid mass-transit system is the Valley's answer," Bever and Testa say in their story. "Until better options come along, students are bound to keep doing what they have done."

These students chose to represent their peers' concerns through this project and to show that the younger generation is thinking about larger issues.

And one of my goals for Sonic Roots is to let students know: That's a good thing.

The Sonic Roots project encourages teenage civic engagement by giving them a voice in the media. It was funded by a grant from the Carstens Family Fund and Mike Minor.

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