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The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

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Cultivating Media and Minds
Updated: 1 hour 4 min ago

Could A Game Based On Columbine Promote Anti-Violence?

April 19, 2018 - 3:09pm
A scene from the Super Columbine Massacre RPG! video game (Photo courtesy of Danny Ledonne)

When Vanessa and I first heard about Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, a game enabling players to act as the Columbine school shooters, we thought, “WHAT?”

After all, what kind of crazy person would make — or play — a game where the point is to go to school, plant bombs, carry out a massacre … and ultimately commit suicide in the library?

Growing up in the post-Columbine world, we have been through more active shooter drills than we can count and fear for our lives every time we hear the alarm. Could you imagine someone making a game like this about Parkland? Sandy Hook? Virginia Tech?


We were actually sick to our stomachs prepping to interview the game’s creator. But at the same time, we were definitely curious. So we sat down with Danny Ledonne, who made the free, downloadable game in 2005 in his early twenties.

But as we talked to him, we started to realize he’s not as twisted as you might think…

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Why was Columbine so important to you that you had to make a game about it?

I was a sophomore at another Colorado high school at the time of the shooting at Columbine. So that really forced me to think about what was going on in my life. … Before Columbine, I had had violent and angry thoughts about hurting myself or hurting other people. I think a lot of young men go through that struggle. I imagine young women as well. So that really forced me to think about what was going on in my life.

A scene from the Super Columbine Massacre RPG! video game (Photo courtesy of Danny Ledonne)

The game seems to point to bullying as one of the motives for the shooters. How did their stories resonate with you?

In the months that followed [Columbine], there was quite a bit of criticism of Marilyn Manson and video games like Doom and Mortal Kombat — things that I was interested in. But there was also not a lot of opportunity for me as a teenager to assert what I thought might be more relevant to consider, issues like bullying in schools or social isolation.

I experienced a considerable amount of bullying growing up. I was always the shortest kid in class and I think that sometimes that made me an easy target … so there was this discomfort of realizing that that other kids are also bullied. The shooters at Columbine … basically developed this kind of inner sense of vengeance that they couldn’t apparently find another way to resolve.

I don’t think it’s helpful to to demonize and ostracize people further and to say, “They are pure evil. They did the work of Satan,” and not being willing to actually understand what led these two young men to the point that this happened in their lives.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: Bullying was originally and widely believed to have been a key motive behind the massacre, but experts have largely debunked that theory. Read here and here for more info.

What were some of the more extreme reactions you got from people who played or heard about the game?

The most extreme reactions I tended to get were from people that never played the game. So then I will get a reaction like, “How could you do this? This is the most sick thing ever! You must be doing this for attention or to make money!”

I certainly have gotten death threats over the years, which is a little bit strange if you think about making a game that is in response to bullying and violence, and the critics of this game think that bullying and violence are the best way to respond to you for having made it.

A scene from the Super Columbine Massacre RPG! video game (Photo courtesy of Danny Ledonne)

I had never seen the game until a few days ago, and I would say the game play itself is not incredibly violent or gory. But as someone who grew up with a constant fear of school shootings, the idea of the game is still deeply disturbing to me.

A shooting is a disturbing subject for a game… It’s a difficult topic, but we shouldn’t condemn or we shouldn’t shy away from engaging work that is disturbing. That emotional experience, that intellectual endeavor, is an important one.

What do you say to the friends or families of Columbine victims who say, “What the hell? In this game, you can kill my family member or friend over and over again!”

Yeah, I know that is that is certainly criticism of the game. I did not put the names of the victims anywhere in the game because I didn’t feel that it was an appropriate design choice. It wasn’t even getting at what I thought was important to understand because the shooters at Columbine didn’t have specific targets. For them it was an act of kind of random ideological terrorism and that’s a fine line to walk, and I’m not even sure I was completely successful at doing so.

A scene from the Super Columbine Massacre RPG! video game (Photo courtesy of Danny Ledonne)

But your game seems to empathize more with the shooters, rather than the people who were killed in the shooting?

Yeah, the game definitely has an empathetic aspect to the two shooters at Columbine. There is no denying that. I also don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing because we have to remember that Eric [Harris] and Dylan [Klebold] were students at their high school just like everyone else. We need to acknowledge that Columbine created and helped shape Eric and Dylan.

So for the anniversary of the Columbine shooting and the next national school walkout against gun violence, I wanted to talk about a little bit about how things have changed.

So unfortunately with Columbine, the more things change, the more things have stayed the same. [But] I’m encouraged to see a new generation of young people kind of carry the torch forward and push for things that obviously my generation and my parents’ generation failed to do to address these issues.

A scene from the Super Columbine Massacre RPG! video game (Photo courtesy of Danny Ledonne)
Categories: Blog

13 Stories To Remind Us That Gun Violence Is About More Than School Shootings

April 19, 2018 - 11:40am

April 20, 2018 is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, during which two teens shot and killed 13 people and injured 21 others at their Colorado high school before turning their weapons on themselves.

To mark the anniversary, students at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut are organizing a national school walkout at 9:50 a.m. They will stay silent for one minute in honor of all victims of gun violence, followed by 13 seconds of silence for each of the Columbine victims.

Teens today live in a post-Columbine world — Gen Zers were born after 1999 have spent their entire childhoods practicing for active shooter drills and hearing about one school shooting after another. But for many young people, that’s not the primary kind of gun violence that keeps them up at night and affects their lives. Community and police-driven gun violence hit hard for teens in urban areas, many of whom have lost family members, friends, or classmates to shootings.

Here at Youth Radio, we’ve been covering urban and community gun violence for decades. So whether you’re preparing for a day of service or 13 seconds of silence to remember Columbine, consider these 13 stories too.

Categories: Blog

Bot or Bully? How To Tell And What To Do About It

April 19, 2018 - 10:45am
Teresa Chin/Youth Radio

Let’s face it: life online can be pretty toxic.

The craziest part is that you can have no idea if you’re dealing with a real person, a professional troll, or a bot.

We wanted to give you some tips on how to deal with bots, bullies, and other online jerks, but we didn’t want to be basic about it. So along with some of our own hard-earned lessons, we asked for help from Rohan Phadte and Ash Bhat of RoBhat Labs. These two go to UC Berkeley and made a name for themselves — we’re talking profiles in Wired and TED Teen Talks —  by coming up with tools to identify bots online and track President Trump’s Executive Actions in their spare time.

Bots, Trolls: What’s The Difference?

Both bots and trolls can be pains to deal with, but only one of them is “real” in the “person” sense. The RoBhat Labs guys say “political propaganda bots [are] accounts that exhibit a level of automation on their Twitter accounts and spread polarized misinformation.” Which means they’re just cranking out nonsense. So here are some tell-tale signs that can help you ID a bot versus your run-of-the-mill troll.

  1. Bots post a lot. Like, A LOT. Go to the account’s profile page and look up how many tweets they put out divided by the number of days the account has been active. If it looks like the account is tweeting hundreds of times per day, chances are it’s a bot. “Automated accounts often tweet out every few minutes,” said Phadte, “even during the off hours of their stated location.”

  2. Bots are relentless. Both can behave badly, but the way to spot a bot is that it’s relentless. Like The Terminator. Although not nearly as cool. If an account never EVER gives up or stops, it may be run by a bot.

  3. Bot profiles start out shouting. Go to the account profile and look at the earliest tweets you can find. According to Poynter, “A bot will often begin its life shamelessly selling ideas or products right away.”

The bottom line is that troll accounts can look pretty similar to bots. So even with these tips in mind, you may have trouble deciphering the difference. The good news is that you can use online tools such as Botcheck.me, a Chrome extension created by Rohan and Ash that uses machine learning to identify bots.

How many bots are out there, anyway?

It’s really difficult to make this estimate,” said Phadte. “Others have put numbers out there, but the number of bots on the platform does not tell the full story and underestimates their impact on social media. Due to their automation, bots often tweet out much more often than human users. We’ve seen some bots that tweet out nearly every minute throughout the day. This inundates the social network and amplifies an originally small subset of voices, and so their presence is much bigger than the number of bots may initially suggest.”

Think of it this way: you know your chatty friend? The one who won’t stop blowing up your phone? Imagine that’s all they ever did: but to the whole internet. Even just a few accounts like that can have a “yuge” impact, if you know what we mean.


Okay, but how big a deal are bots really?

We believe that these political propaganda bots have really polarized our social media platforms,” said Phadte. “We see instances of bots on both sides of the political spectrum, creating a divide on the platform. Bots have really created echo chambers where people are falling into confirmation bias.”

That whole “confirmation bias” thing is no joke. With an army of bots backing up a real person’s argument, they can feel invincible: even if they have just a handful of real followers.  


So what do we do about trolls?

Okay, so here’s where tech can’t help you as much as a little logic and some old-school philosophy can.

If someone challenges you online, and you’ve checked that they’re not a bot, and you’re still tempted to win an online argument, ask yourself this: are they arguing from bad faith? That is: are they arguing just to score points? To make you feel bad? Are they listening at all, or are you talking past each other? Check their feed: is this something they do all the time?  

Do this before you start arguing because life is too short to argue with strangers for the sake of arguing.

That, after all, is what trolls do.

If you’ve done your checks and have a clear conscience on calling someone out for crossing harassment lines, bullying, and generally being an unrepentant jerk in your mentions: that’s great. Just be mindful about what you’re getting into. Trolls travel in packs, with bots often backing them up. They rely on intimidation. You don’t owe trolls your time, so if do address them, do it on your terms. (And remember that mute and block are your friends, with “mute” being a sly tool.)


Is there an upside to arguing with bots or trolls?

We’re not gonna lie: some people just enjoy arguing. Others turn the tables on trolls and bots and use the attacks to make themselves look good. In the short run that can feel awesome, and maybe get you some new followers. There’s a long game here though, one that we all pay a price for,  and we’ll let the RoBhat Labs guys have the last word:

“We believe the purpose behind these bots is to create a political divide and amplify echo chambers of political ideas – arguing may not be productive.”

Categories: Blog

Yes, Beyoncé’s Coachella Performance Was Historic. That’s Not Why We’re Still Talking About It

April 18, 2018 - 5:09pm

Young black artists Clay Xavier and Kaylahni Lacy react to Beyoncé’s epic Coachella performance.

Categories: Blog

10 Haikus About How Teens REALLY Use Social Media

April 18, 2018 - 4:36pm

Whether you love, hate, or LIVE social media, there’s something… poetic… about how much effort we put into our online lives. So we asked one of our interns, Angel Collins, to compose a series of haikus about how teens REALLY use social media.

The result feels true…. maybe a little too true.


















Categories: Blog

Opinion: Student Councils Can Be About A Lot More Than Prom

April 18, 2018 - 11:45am

California State Capitol Building, Sacramento, California. By Christopher Padalinski [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia CommonsArvin Hariri is the governmental affairs policy director of the California Association of Student Councils.

Right about now your school’s student government is probably busy organizing its latest and greatest dance.

The planning committee has begun reserving the venue, allocating decorations, and even getting a local band involved. It’s important work, but for most student governments, this is also it. Everything. This is where student voices come to die, always to remain lost in translation.

If that’s what passes for civic engagement, is it any wonder that only 8 percent of eligible Californians aged 18 to 24 turned out to the polls in the 2014 midterms?

For the past 71 years, the California Association of Student Councils (CASC) has been a real solution to the youth voter apathy deeply embedded into our society.

Picture a place where students work tirelessly to develop real policy proposals. Imagine that instead of talking to a brick wall, students actually get feedback from the Senate/Assembly Joint Committee on Education, and create real, tangible bills. Bills that are signed into law by the governor, who credits the students for making a difference.

That place is real, and it is the Student Advisory Board on Legislation in Education: run entirely by the students of CASC.

While school administrators sit behind closed doors, making life-altering decisions for students with little student input, that should not deter us. If anything, it should enrage us and envigorate us into amplifying our voices.

It’s time we decide whether student government is a dance-planning committee, or a legitimate civic body. The California Association of Student Councils made its decision over 71 years ago, so when will you make yours?

Categories: Blog

Youth Radio Honored With 2018 Gracie Award

April 17, 2018 - 10:25am
Source: Alliance for Women in Media

Youth Radio is proud to announce its latest award for student-led reporting.

The series “That’s When My Childhood Ended” has been honored with a 2018 Gracie Award for News Feature – Non Commercial by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, which recognizes “exemplary programming created by women, for women and about women in all facets of media and entertainment.” Youth Radio is joined by fellow 2018 Gracie Award winners “60 Minutes,” CNN, ABC News, VICE News, and more.

In this four-part series, a team of young women report from across America. Going inside high schools where young people grapple with the effects of teen suicide, sexual harassment, and racism, Valencia White, Charlie Stuip, Zola Cervantes, and Sasha Armbrester take you beyond the political upheaval around immigration to reveal how the system falls short — particularly for young women.



  • The toll that America’s deportation program takes on families is the theme of Zola Cervantes’ personal essay With A Deported Father, California Teen Lives Life Between Borders. Cervantes, a reporter with Youth Radio partner Boyle Heights Beat, reveals the adult responsibilities she stepped into to support her mother (abruptly thrust into single-parenthood) as well as the pain she endures being separated from her father who was deported to Mexico when she was a child. Produced by Youth Radio in collaboration with Boyle Heights Beat.


  • Finally in I’m A Cheerleader, Here’s Why I Take A Knee, Sasha Armbrester reveals why she and her fellow cheerleaders started taking a knee at her school in Union City, California, and continued to do so, even when football players stood, and despite pushback from parents and some members of the community.


Taken together, this series reveals what it means to be a young woman at a profoundly polarized moment in America.

Check out the links below to listen to and read these stories by and about young women who are determined to step up in a deeply flawed world, and see more of Youth Radio’s award-winning reporting on the Awards page.

Categories: Blog

Looking For A Job As An International Student? Here Are 5 Pieces of Advice

April 17, 2018 - 9:27am
Image: Brenda Gottsabend (Flickr)

Finding internships as a college student is difficult, and finding an internship as an international college student is even more challenging. I’m an international student from The Bahamas going to Saint Leo University in Florida, and I’ve wondered whether my own immigration status will automatically rule me out of internships. Trust me. I know the gut-wrenching feeling of knowing that certain companies are not interested in hiring me.

I talked to Lou Paris, a professor at Stetson University in Florida (and a former international student himself) for insight. He wrote a book, titled Konkeros 2018: An International Student’s Guide to Finding Employment in the US, and has a platform to help students research companies that offer sponsorships.

From our conversation, here are five pieces of advice for other international students on finding the right internship for your career goals.

1. Brace Yourself

Be prepared to go on this journey of tons of rejections, especially from companies that don’t hire international students and aren’t willing to offer sponsorship. And start early.  

Lou Paris: “Often, international students come to me at a point where they have already completed their degrees, they are already half way through their OPT (Optional Practical Training), and there is little that I can do to help…on things they should have done months, if not years, ago.”

2. Get Informed as Early as Possible

International Students, on the F1 visa, are limited in how they can work. First year students can’t work off campus. After that, three types of off-campus employment are allowed: Curricular Practical Training (CPT); Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion); and  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT). Each of these employment options have requirements and restrictions.

In short: it’s complicated. I recommend that you speak to your international student advisor/counselor to learn more about your options available. Paris advises international students to speak to an immigration lawyer, and do so early.

Lou Paris:  “Ideally, you should be engaging an immigration attorney in your first year as a freshman. It may sound like overkill, but it really isn’t…because an immigration attorney from the beginning – from your freshman year – can help you assess what you may qualify for, not only now but in the future. They may be able to give you a path, or a blueprint, of the things that should be happening during your school years for you to build a better immigration profile for the time you graduate.”

3. Be Careful With Applications

One time, when I was filling out an online application, I was faced with typical immigration questions: “Are you legally authorized to work?” and “Do you now or in the future require sponsorship?” I clicked ‘next’ after giving what I thought were the proper answers and the application immediately ended stating that I was not qualified. You have to be careful and clear when dealing with forms.

Lou Paris:  “If you are answering questions about your immigration status or your current situation on paper, for example on an application, you have to answer truthfully: answer the question exactly as intended. One caveat there is that if you are applying for an internship, and you are only working for that company during the internship and they ask if you need sponsorship, the obvious answer is no because you are only there for an internship.”

4. You Have To Network

Don’t wait until junior year to network. Do it early on in your studies, preferably freshman year. Do it with everyone – academic advisors, international student counselors, career services staff, alumni associations. Think of it like investing: the value you put in now will pay of years later.  

Lou Paris:  “I recommend to international students to focus your job search not so much on direct applications. I ask them instead to focus on networking. I say this because every time questions about immigration come up in an application, chances are you are being automatically ruled out. You may think that there is a slight chance – even 1 percent chance – of getting that job, but in reality, your chances are dramatically reduced. So, with networking, you are basically looking for employment opportunities by creating a network of people that you meet within your desired career path of your industry. That is more effective.”

5. Know Your Goal

If you’re like me, you’ve wondered if you should apply for internships that don’t typically offer sponsorships just for the work experience, or whether to only apply for companies that offer sponsorships. After all, sponsorships are good, right?

Paris suggested that both paths are valid, but students should know what their goal plan is – sponsored or not – when thinking about this. He also warned that big companies, those with recognizable names, are usually the ones that don’t offer sponsorships.

Lou Paris:  “The profile of a company that typically hires foreign nationals and international students is very specific. They tend to be medium and small size companies. In fact, the median size of the company that hires international students is 39 employees. Think about how small that is.”

Paris says that startups are more willing to employ international students since interns have more responsibilities in these companies; however, some startups are unstable, which means the company (and your) future can be unpredictable. If you’re looking for long-term employment sponsorship, that’s a risk to consider.

As for me, I opened up my internship search to include companies that don’t typically offer sponsorships so I can gain experience and build up my resume. After I complete my CPT and OPT, and if I am not sponsored by a company, I plan to do my masters and see where that leads.

Categories: Blog

Degree Interrupted: A Veteran Transitions To Student Life

April 16, 2018 - 10:57am

This is the third essay of our three-part series, “Degree Interrupted,” in which Youth Radio reporter Brooke Reotutar interviewed college students who had non-traditional paths to higher education. Today’s story comes from Matt Stowe, a veteran, and student at California State University San Marcos.

Transitioning back to civilian life and college after my time in the Marines was a culture shock at first. During my service, I spent five years as a rifleman and was deployed to Afghanistan and the Western Pacific twice. Once my term was over, I had to retrain myself to be a student and civilian again.

Joining the military right out of high school was the most natural path for me. My dad was a marine and I always admired him for it. My years in the service allowed me to contribute something valuable to society and gave me time to think about what I wanted to become.

I quickly rose to a leadership position and found myself training other marines how to survive in combat. At the age of 20, I had the lives and safety of others in my hands. As that fact truly dawned on me, it gave me a sense of urgency. It was real.

Once I finished my term, I knew I wanted to pursue my undergraduate degree. As part of my veteran perks, I received 36 months of benefits for education through the G.I. Bill. But as excited as I was to attend college, I didn’t know if I was ready to be a student. Flipping that switch from “marine” to “college kid” can be tricky.

Simple things like choosing the right classes, finding insurance and basic “adulting” skills posed a challenge since I never had to worry about any of those factors living on base. I realized that although those logistical factors were tough, the training I received from the Marines prepared me to be a strong student and employee.

I came into my classes and the workforce instilled with a sense of value for authority — both listening to authority figures and being one. Because of this, I excelled in both the classroom and in my job.

Currently, I attend California State University San Marcos and work in the Veterans Affairs Office at Palomar College. I felt compelled to help younger veterans who experience the same challenges I did in regards to making the transition.

In retrospect, taking this different path gave me the character and discipline I needed and provided the capacity to fulfill my goals. One thing you learn in the military from day one is that life isn’t all about you. You are responsible for a mission and ensuring the people to your right and left are taken care of.

I carry that mentality with me and strive to make a positive impact on my community.


Categories: Blog

Growing Up Without a Female Influence

April 15, 2018 - 8:00am

Going from being a child to an adolescent is tough. It’s even harder when you’re the only girl in your house.

I live with my dad and two brothers. My mom isn’t in the picture anymore. When I was younger I never noticed the gender difference in my house, or at least I didn’t care. My childhood was filled with stereotypically girly traditions: wearing princess costumes to school, playing with barbies, and owning pink everything.

But when I started middle school and my body started changing, the blissful ignorance ended.

Telling my dad I got my period seemed like the worst conversation I could ever have.

So during a Target run, I slipped a box of pads into the cart and prayed he wouldn’t say anything.

I latched on to older female friends for advice. They made me feel like I had older sisters — teaching me how to do makeup, curl my hair, and find the right bra.

I don’t blame my dad for his cluelessness, and given his circumstances, he did a good job. In the end, his unconditional love and support made up for his lack of hair braiding skills.




Categories: Blog

Texas State University Student Sit-In Continues

April 13, 2018 - 4:45pm
Texas State University student protesters meet to plan and coordinate their press conference. (Photo by: Jacob Rodriguez)

Students at Texas State University have staged a sit in on the fourth floor of the LBJ student center in response to the failed impeachment of the Student Government President Connor Clegg.

Impeachment charges were initially brought against Clegg in late February based on alleged misconduct. The school’s paper The University Star reported that Clegg was already under fire for posting racist and sexist images on his personal Instagram account when he condemned an opinion column and the student newspaper, the University Star, as racist.

This is the second day of the sit-in and according to a press release by the student protestors, “students have no intention of leaving the LBJ Student Center until the demands imposed by students are met.”

Besides the removal of the student body president, their demands include the implementation of a Black Studies program, a diversity requirement to the general core curriculum, hiring a full-time campus immigration attorney and the creation of a task force including student leaders and relevant faculty to address any other campus climate issues.

University President Denise Trauth responded in an email to all students detailing the administration’s efforts to create a task force to better student government, add additional resources for undocumented students, and create Latino and African American studies minors.

Protesters’ post list of demands during the student sit-in. (Photo by: Jakob Rodriguez)

The Texas State University sit-in comes just a week after Howard University students ended a nine-day takeover of the school’s administration building demanding adequate housing for students under 21, addressing the campus rape culture and disarming campus police officers.

Categories: Blog

Cal Poly Students Protest University’s Response To Fraternity’s Blackface Incident

April 13, 2018 - 4:30pm

Hundreds of students at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo are speaking out as what they view as the university’s inaction on racism after photos surfaced of white students dressed as “gang members,” including one in blackface, at a local Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity event.

While the fraternity chapter has since has been suspended, Cal Poly President Jeffery Armstrong was quoted in a local newspaper saying the student involved is likely protected under free speech rights.

“If a student walks around on campus with their face painted black, they can do that,” he said in an article published in The San Luis Obispo Tribune.

Student activists on campus reacted to his comments by protesting on Friday, calling for Armstrong’s resignation and for the university to better address racially-charged incidents on campus, the lack of faculty and student diversity, tuition hikes and costly student fees. 

Students chanted, “I am not Cal Poly Proud” and “hey, hey, ho, ho, Armstrong has got to go!”

At one point, during the protest, students walked to the administration building where the Black Student Union released a set of demands including the expulsion of all of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity members featured in a widely-circulated Instagram photo, which shows the members throwing up gang signs in front of their fraternity house with the caption, “She want a gangster not a pretty boy.”

The protest coincided with the university’s annual open house, during which newly admitted students, supporters, parents, and alumni visit the campus.

Kim Knollenberg, an African-American biomedical engineering student who attended the protest, said students of color at Cal Poly need more support.

“[President Armstrong] didn’t call it blackface — by its name or what it is,” she said.  “It’s not right. I think you need to call it hate speech or hate crime. I don’t know why he’s not taking a stand because he is making people of color and people who got affected by this feel irrelevant. Even though we are a small population on this campus, because we are feeling underrepresented, not represented at all, it’s an injustice and it’s not fair.”

Students protest Friday at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. (Photo by: Megan Schellong)

In an email sent campus-wide on April 9, one day after the photo surfaced, Armstrong wrote:

“Like many of you, I have seen the images that circulated on social media and find them to be painful and embarrassing… Hurtful actions, be they intentional or otherwise, have no place at our university and yet, regrettably, we experience them.  They are senseless acts of ignorance that injure and alienate valued members of our community. They must stop. We may come from differing backgrounds, but every one of us at Cal Poly is a human being who deserves respect.  In the most important ways, we are one family.”

According to the 2016 Cal Poly fact book, the university enrolls roughly 21,000 undergraduates.  Fifty-seven percent of the student body is white and only 166 students are Black. In 2017, Mustang News reported that income diversity at Cal Poly is the lowest among all 23 California State Universities, with 3.99 percent of its student body falling under the top 1 percent of the income bracket.

“If our student body is not diverse and does not reflect the demographics of the state and communities in which our students will ultimately live and work, we have failed,” Armstrong wrote. “We have failed diverse students who would benefit from a Cal Poly degree and we have failed to prepare our student body for success after Cal Poly.”

Another protest is planned for Saturday, when student organizations, including a majority of the cultural clubs, will boycott the university’s Open House Club showcase.


Categories: Blog

Mansplaining Explained

April 13, 2018 - 2:50pm

Ever gotten way more advice from a guy than you bargained for (or needed)? You may have been the target of mansplaining. In this episode of “Did You Know,” Youth Radio’s Olivia Monforte dishes about this oh-so-annoying gender-based phenomenon.

Categories: Blog

Got A Great Story Idea? Here’s How To Pitch To Youth Radio

April 13, 2018 - 12:03pm

You don’t have to be a professional journalist to become a correspondent for Youth Radio. We’re all about stories BY young people, ABOUT the things that young people care about. So if you’re between the ages of 14 and 25 and have an idea for a great story, here’s what you can do:

Ask yourself, “Is this a YOUTH RADIO story?”


  • Does it have a strong youth angle <–this is a MUST.
  • Is it a story people who live all around the country, not just locally, would care about?
  • Is your story idea or angle one that hasn’t been covered by other national news outlets?
  • Is it on one of our beats? We’re especially interested in surprising stories about race/inequity, gender/LGBTQ, STEM/tech, politics/activism, juvenile justice, pop culture, music and the arts.
  • Does your idea include people or places that aren’t covered enough by traditional news sources?

If the answers to most of those questions are yes, then it’s totally a story for us. Keep going!

Ask yourself, “How do I want to tell this story?” Illustration by Desmond Meagley

Think about the kind of media you’d want to use to tell the story. We accept pitches for:

  • First person commentaries/essays – 200 words to 700 words
  • Q&As with young newsmakers: 700 words or less after editing
  • Listicles – GIFs/photos with some short copy for each item — should inform as well as entertain
  • Photo essays – up to 10 images with quotes/captions that include first name, last name, and age
  • Breaking news reporting for social media – photos, videos, and captions of live events relevant to young people
  • Cartoons/illustrations related to news/culture – 1080x1080px
  • Videos – (1-minute) explainers, reviews, breaking news; (1 to 3 minutes) reported features
  • Soft news feature (audio) – 2-3 minutes; ideally bring to us before reporting has begun
  • Longform written feature – 500 words to 1,000 words
In a few sentences, tell us about your story idea at pitch@youthradio.org

  • Tell us what you want to cover and why it matters
  • Let us know why you’re the right person to cover this story
  • Let us know about important dates or news pegs related to this story
  • Include the best way to contact you, including full name, phone, email, and time zone.
What happens next?

We do our best to respond to all pitches in a timely manner, but let’s be real — things can be busy. If you still haven’t heard back from us after 14 days, consider the pitch released and feel free to shop it to a different outlet. If we do take your pitch, here’s the process:

  • We’ll pair you with a professional editor to help you talk through the angle/production of your piece
  • We’ll work with you to establish a timeline for the story to be completed and help you if you get stuck
  • You’ll get edits (everyone does) and we’ll work together to come up with a product you are proud of that also works for our platform
  • We’ll publish the piece on our site — and potentially through our media partners
  • We’ll spread the story on social and tag you (remember to give us your social handle)
  • You’ll submit paperwork and get paid (rates vary depending on the piece, so please talk to your editor about $ once you get a story accepted)
Categories: Blog

“Map The Movement” Interactive Tracks #NeverAgain In Real Time

April 12, 2018 - 11:26am

“There’s no central leader. It’s a team effort. That’s what’s most important” — Alex Wind, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor.

On the street, at government offices, and via social media: young people are calling for gun control on a national scale. The movement is everywhere, and we’ve tracked the story from its tragic beginnings to the latest call to action.

Youth Radio’s “Map The Movement” Interactive tells the story of the #neveragain grassroots campaign via social media posts by teens around the country.

Beautiful graphics and geotagged tweets show just how widespread the #NeverAgain movement has become.

Check out our interactive map, which was coded and designed by young people, and updates you on the latest #neveragain conversation as it happens.

Categories: Blog

Prom Tips By Teens For Teens

April 12, 2018 - 10:43am

It’s prom season, you know what that means — Either you’ve spent months shopping for the perfect outfit, or you really just don’t care.

In either case, we have tips for you from our resident prom experts, BFF reporters (and polar opposites), Malia and Finley.

Transportation Party Bus GIF from Mylittlepony GIFs

Finley: Go with the fanciest and most expensive because it will make it the most memorable. PARTY BUS!

Malia: Carpool with some buddies to save the environment and make sure to have a designated driver.

Compromise: Take an Uber and make sure your phone is charged.


Malia: Be comfortable. That’s all that really matters.

Finley: You can be comfy any other day of your life. This is PROM. Comfy is not your goal here. Your goal is to look cute AF.

Malia:  You can be cute and comfy at the same time.


Malia: RUDE.

Compromise: At least bring comfy shoes that you can dance in and wear to the after party. And be sure to try on your outfit BEFORE prom night. You don’t want to be the kid who realizes they don’t have a strapless bra for their strapless dress. DON’T BE THAT KID.

Your Date

Finley: You need to have a promposal. The promposal is mandatory.

Malia: Just go with friends or people who make you feel comfortable

Finley: Going with friends is cool for junior prom. For senior prom, you need a date.

Compromise: Even if you go with friends, come on… you can make a promposal sign.

The After Party

Finley: Get a hotel room. If your prom is far, you’re not going to get back in time. You know you’re not going to make curfew.

Malia: Talk to your parents beforehand about extending your curfew.

Compromise: A Designated driver is a must. Bring snacks.

The overall take away: There’s no right way to have a great prom, so we’ll have to agree to disagree. But in the end, you don’t have to compromise — have fun and be safe out there!

Categories: Blog

I’m Shmacked: The College Party Guide for Gen Z?

April 11, 2018 - 2:38pm

Deciding between colleges? How do you find the best party school? We’re…uh… asking for a friend.

Some high school seniors are turning to “I’m Shmacked” videos, which give you a lens into the college experience you won’t see on the official school tour. Youth Radio’s Vanessa Rasmussen reports on this controversial approach to college choice.

Categories: Blog

When Cyber School Got Depressing, I Turned To The Library

April 11, 2018 - 12:47pm
When Nsai Temko was attending cyber school, she felt cut off from the rest of the world. She credits a teen space at the Carnegie Library for helping her get through that time. (Photo by Aaron Warnick/PublicSource)

By Nsai Temko

Cyber schooling was not among my top choices for the dream high school experience. It was the last resort after my mother and I discovered we could not afford to return to Orlando, Florida, and it was too late to enroll in Pittsburgh-area schools. I immediately despised the idea of being alone in the house all day to do school work. My mom suggested I lighten up and give it a chance. I listened to her advice and tried to enjoy cyber school. It was futile.

My mother was at work from dusk until dawn on weekdays, and I was not allowed to go out by myself. Sure, there were movies to watch, I had nail polish and journals to write in, but the lack of social interaction shackled my motivation to my bed frame. It got to the point where I would wake up for live classes, complete homework and go back to sleep. Nothing moved me forward; I continuously wallowed in depressing loneliness.

One day, I got a call from my sister, who is 16 years older than me and lives in California. We caught up on how life was going with her family, and I told her how I felt about my predicament. Being the problem solver she is, my sister sent me bus money and explained that if I pay for transportation, my mom would likely be more than willing to let me go out during the days. She was 100  percent correct. Shortly after the bus money came in the mail, I met with my dad. My parents are divorced, but he lives nearby.

The cover of the chapbook Nsai Temko created at the Carnegie Library teen space. (Photo by Aaron Warnick/PublicSource)

We met at a cafe. He brought up the collection of poems I have written. They were collecting dust on my desk at home, and he thought I needed to do something with them. He told me about an awesome teen space at the Carnegie Library in Oakland.

There, I could bind all my poems into a chapbook. Using the transportation funds from my sister, I convinced my mother to allow me to go to the library.

In the library, I met a librarian named Ms. Sandra. She asked me if I needed anything and then caringly listened to my awkward giggles and thoughts about poetry and chapbooks. We sat down and talked about putting all my poems into a zine. A zine is a personal, handmade way of exchanging information! They can have all types of designs, forms and purposes.

If it wasn’t for the teen space, meeting its wonderful people and being given resources, I would have not had the opportunity to present my poetry collection to the public. I would still be fighting against the thoughts that chip away at my will to get out of bed and brush my teeth. My grades would still be dropping, and I wouldn’t feel nearly as accomplished as I do today. The teen space gave me such a strong sense of security and ability to be myself…

Read more of Nsai’s story at PublicSource.

Nsai Temko now attends Propel Braddock Hills High School. This story was originally published at PublicSource, which believes in giving a platform to voices not often heard or consulted. They asked teenagers in the Pittsburgh region to tell them what matters to them and write about it.
Categories: Blog

What Teens Think About Facebook’s Privacy Breach

April 11, 2018 - 9:48am

This week, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, is testifying before Congress to discuss how the company handles user data. Facebook is in the hot seat in the wake of news that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, collected data from Facebook users to influence the 2016 election.

While many adults (including my mom) were shocked and outraged at Facebook’s breach of privacy, teens I spoke to had a different response. Personally, I was not surprised by Facebook’s mishandling of user data, and I have long assumed that my social media accounts were being mined. Here are some opinions from other teens:

“It doesn’t bother me too much when it’s information like what music I listen to, like things that I’m interested in. But when it’s more personal things like my location or even family things. That’s when it gets weird and uncomfortable. With those hobby-type things, it’s just a marketing tool, there’s not that much at stake. But when it’s your location, family relationships, or medical information, that’s when it’s uncomfortable and a violation of privacy.”
–Nina Roehl, 17

“I feel like I’ve grown up in a world where technology is so all encompassing and ubiquitous that it just doesn’t surprise me that there are social media platforms using people’s personal information as marketable goods. And frankly it doesn’t phase me because I’m so used to it.”
–Sierra Fang-Horvath, 17

“I feel like they didn’t steal it, I kinda gave it to them. I wouldn’t mind if they took it, I just wish they weren’t selling it.”
–Finley Davis, 17

“It’s unsettling. It’d be different if [Facebook] got our permission… I feel at this point we are basically commodities, because we use social networks. It’s almost like an exchange, we use their platform and they take our data. It’s definitely something I didn’t agree to and didn’t have any knowledge of. The more information comes out about this, the more uncomfortable I get. But it’s like, what am I gonna do about it? Stop using social media? I feel cheated and used.”
–Mali Dandridge, 17

“I’m hesitant about what I put on Instagram now.”
–Michelle Ruano Arreola, 18

“I get that [Facebook] has to make money, but they shoulda said like, ‘You can pay 15 dollars and get a lifetime membership or we can take your data and you get ads.’”
–Riley Lockett, 17

Categories: Blog

Remix Your Life Poetry Month: “Everything Else”

April 6, 2018 - 2:42pm

“Everything Else” is a short verse written and performed by Shy’An G that reflects her experience of growing up in low-privileged neighborhoods and how her thought process has changed over the years.

“Everything Else” (Excerpt)

Coming from a senseless solution

Full of many problems with the same conclusions

and all is tied to the central,

which makes your first baby step the grimiest

and the twelfth month the mightiest.

Inside of this reformed fossil

No telling when an archeologist

will have the ability to identify it.

While ice is spread amongst the creases of the sidewalks.

Salt — that’s the core

covered the kid drawing in chalk.

Fast forward to it, as expectations

grew among metal, then they called me fake swag nation

more bullets stuck in my thoracic

every step of my cadence

I told them, check my mere presence

because it reps my penance.


For the full poem, which was adapted into the second track of Shy’an G’s album “Fragile Branches,” listen here:



Categories: Blog