Youth voices

NPR's fourth annual Student Podcast Challenge is back and now open for middle and high school students. There are three competitions, including opportunities for middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students pursuing their associate's or bachelor's degrees.

The inaugural cycle of StoryCraft, a partnership between BPR and Asheville Writers In The Schools and Community, used an exploration of the senses as our north star during a series of six youth storytelling workshops at the Grant Center.  

Our goal was to facilitate a genuine experience of identity exploration at a variety of levels through: 

Simplicity: making sure their experiences and voices are captured without concerns of format, right or wrong.  

Emotional engagement of the senses: allowing the inner landscape to be voiced through it.  

What happens when you put a microphone and camera in the hands of youth? When you guide them through an exploration of the senses and encourage their creative expression? When you make space for youth and adults to collaborate, using a model that works to disrupt power dynamics and involve young people in shaping the programming? 

wearing a pink tee shirt and holding a notebook, Tori Stinson reads her poem to a group sitting on chairs in a circle on the stage of the Grant Center auditorium.
Cass Herrington

In the second part of StoryCraft, artist mentors Elizabeth Garland and Micah Mackenzie introduce us to 15-year-old Tori Stinson. During our series of summer storytelling workshops at the Grant Center, Tori used the writing prompt “Who am I?” to examine how dance defines her as a person, how she calls on dance to help her through difficult times. Here’s an excerpt: 

Dance makes me calm.  

Dance is who I am, I am freestyle dance.  

Dance is my escape, it’s my escape from negative energy and bad things.  

Dance is my superpower.  

BPR is pleased to announce StoryCraft, a youth engagement partnership with Asheville Writers In The Schools and Community (AWITSC). Together, we’re collaborating on storytelling workshops for local youth and making space for their voices on BPR’s airwaves and digital platforms. Listen to the on-air pieces here: 

StoryCraft Part 1: I am music 

StoryCraft Part 2: Dance is my everything

In the first part of StoryCraft, we learn about the origins of the partnership with BPR and Asheville Writers In The Schools and Community, and we introduce you to one of the youth poets – 15-year-old Antonio Stinson, now in the 9th grade at Asheville High School. During StoryCraft’s summer 2021 storytelling workshops, Antonio used the writing prompt “Who am I?” to develop a powerful poem that uses musical structure and composition to explore the role music plays in his life.  

NPR student podcast challenge
Illustration by Cass Herrington

Students in the Asheville area and beyond are hustling to meet the March 15th deadline to submit their entries for NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge. The annual contest invites students from across the country to put together a short podcast exploring any topic they’d like and provides training materials for classrooms. While winners get the chance to hear their piece on NPR, the initiative is also about skill sharing, collaboration and inspiring the next generation of audio storytellers.

Student Podcast Challenge illustration
Illustration by Cass Herrington / BPR News

Welcome to the 2021 NPR Student Podcast Challenge! Blue Ridge Public Radio is inviting students grades 5-12 from across Western North Carolina to submit their podcasts to be shared with BPR’s listeners, and possibly, a national audience.  

We’re here to answer your questions and help facilitate hands-on classroom learning that teachers can incorporate into their lesson plans. Think of us as your friendly neighborhood radio nerds, ready to answer any questions that come up along the way.