YPP Network Description

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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Updated: 1 hour 6 min ago

Youth Radio Raw: Prime Time Episode 5

May 22, 2017 - 2:17pm

Welcome to the 5th episode of Prime Time on Youth Radio Raw.

Make sure you tune in every week on Fridays from 6:15 to 7:35pm!

On this show, you’ll hear recent news, personal experiences, and a diverse selection of music.

Youth Radio Raw is a weekly radio show produced by Bay Area high schoolers, ages 14-18. Students partner with professionals to learn the basics of journalism, music production, and multimedia.

For photos of the show, go to Youth Radio’s Flickr page.

Check out live coverage of the show by following @YouthRadioRaw on Twitter and @yr_raw on Instagram.

Categories: Blog

Youth Radio Raw: Prime Time Episode 4

May 22, 2017 - 2:10pm

On this show, you’ll hear recent news, personal experiences, and a diverse selection of music.

Youth Radio Raw is a weekly radio show produced by Bay Area high schoolers, ages 14-18. Students partner with professionals to learn the basics of journalism, music production, and multimedia.

For photos of the show, go to Youth Radio’s Flickr page.

Check out live coverage of the show by following @YouthRadioRaw on Twitter and @yr_raw on Instagram.

Categories: Blog

Youth Radio Raw: Prime Time Episode 3

May 22, 2017 - 2:06pm

Welcome to the 3rd episode of Prime Time on Youth Radio Raw.

Make sure you tune in every week on Fridays from 6:15 to 7:35pm!

On this show, you’ll hear recent news, personal experiences, and a diverse selection of music.

Youth Radio Raw is a weekly radio show produced by Bay Area high schoolers, ages 14-18. Students partner with professionals to learn the basics of journalism, music production, and multimedia.

For photos of the show, go to Youth Radio’s Flickr page.

Check out live coverage of the show by following @YouthRadioRaw on Twitter and @yr_raw on Instagram.

Categories: Blog

Youth Radio Raw: Prime Time Episode 2

May 22, 2017 - 1:56pm

Welcome to the 2nd episode of Prime Time on Youth Radio Raw.

Tune in every week on Fridays from 6:15 to 7:35pm!

On this show, you’ll hear recent news, personal experiences, and a diverse selection of music.

Youth Radio Raw is a weekly radio show produced by Bay Area high schoolers, ages 14-18. Students partner with professionals to learn the basics of journalism, music production, and multimedia.

For photos of the show, go to Youth Radio’s Flickr page.

Check out live coverage of the show by following @YouthRadioRaw and @yr_raw on Instagram.

Categories: Blog

Growing Up Undocumented in a Sanctuary City

May 21, 2017 - 8:00am
Photo Credit: Project Luz via Flickr

I feel safe in my community. Which isn’t that unusual. Except I’m not just any kid. I’m undocumented.

My family immigrated from Mexico to California when i was two years old. Most of my life, I’ve lived in Hayward. The city has an official anti-discrimination policy, and is considering becoming a sanctuary city.

Many cities near me have already declared themselves sanctuaries, which means it’s harder for the government to deport undocumented people. California is in the process of hearing a bill which could make us the first so-called “Sanctuary State.”

When Trump took office, my community took action to make undocumented kids feel protected. My school assured us we were in a safe place, and many of the faculty hung signs that said, “Proud teacher of undocumented students”.

I’m lucky. In some places, undocumented immigrants live in fear of being kicked out of homes that they traveled miles to reach and worK hard to keep.

Despite the lack of a sanctuary title, my city has allowed me to thrive in school and be more active in my community. If there were more places like this, undocumented teen would feel a sense of belonging, despite our legal status.

Categories: Blog

DISCUSSION: How Should Schools Address The Issue Of Teen Suicide?

May 19, 2017 - 3:28pm

Trigger warning: We’re going to be talking about teen suicide in this post.

Teen suicide is a sensitive subject for a lot of reasons. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of high school students considered attempting suicide in the past year.

But even though it’s an important issue, many adults still get nervous when it comes to discussing or sharing media that depicts young people taking their lives. They’re afraid the media will unintentionally inspire teens to “copycat” and attempt suicide themselves. That phenomenon even has a name, the Werther effect.

So it’s no surprise adults–and some kids–are wary of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

The popular show, which is based on a book of the same title, tells the story of a teen girl named Hannah Baker who dies by suicide. The story of the actions and events that led to her decision is revealed via audio tapes, which she recorded while she was still alive. The series is pretty graphic, and it touches on sensitive topics like bullying and sexual assault. Now, the story is sparking conversations among teens across the country — but is that a good thing?

Some people don’t think so. Many schools have sent warning letters home to parents about the series. And one school district went so far as to pull copies of the book 13 Reasons Why from the shelves of the library.

On the other hand, some adults are praising the show for helping to call attention to teens who need support at school. As one high school counselor said in an article published by the Bay Area News Group, “I feel as though there are Hannahs at every high school. Every single one.”

One school, Oxford High in Michigan, is using the series as a launching off point for their own anti-suicide campaign, which they called “Thirteen reasons why NOT.”  Similar to the Netflix series, students at the school recorded themselves talking about bad experiences that made them question their self worth. But instead of naming a source of blame like in the show, the students shout out a person who helped them feel good about themselves again. The stories are played over the school’s loudspeakers, giving students an opportunity to discuss what they hear.

Media For Discussion

WEB: With ‘13 Reasons Why Not,” High Schoolers Honor Friends Who Saved Them (Youth Radio/Teen Vogue)

In response to the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” Teens at Oxford High School  in Michigan “talked back”  by playing audio recordings over the school intercom thanking a person who helped them through a terrible time. The stories are deeply personal. Students had to get permission from parents and school officials before playing them for the school.

DISCUSSION: How should schools address the issue of teen suicide?

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDEdspace @youthradio and end it with #DoNow13

Additional Resources

VIDEO: 13 Reasons Why Receives Backlash (Youth Radio)

Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has received a lot of criticism and praise for its graphic content. The series sets out to expose the troubles teens face today, and raise awareness about bullying and suicide amongst teens. But could the series be negatively impacting teen mental health? We asked a high school counselor to weigh in on the controversy.

AUDIO: Explaining Depression To My Family (KQED/Youth Radio)

Like many young people, Youth Radio’s Amber Cavarlez struggles with depression. Yet she says the Filipino side of her family considers talking about feelings to be taboo. While her relatives feel their silence keeps them focused on moving past hardship, Amber says the denial can make her depression deeper.

WEB: Overview of Teen Depression (Mayo Clinic)

This overview of the symptoms, causes and treatment options for teen depression is a good starting place for young people who may be affected by depression. This site contains resources, like the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). If a you or a teen you know is having suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately.

 

Categories: Blog

Want To Help People Like Me With Pre-Existing Conditions? Sign Up For Healthcare

May 17, 2017 - 9:32am
Aditi Juneja, 26, was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child. Now she’s about to graduate from NYU’s law school. She says her health condition has forced her to become a health policy wonk. Photo: Ashley Pridmore

In the spring of my first-year of law school, while taking an exam, I had a grand mal seizure — the type of seizures people see in the movies with spasms on the floor. My memory is fuzzy from that time. I remember a few of my classmates offering me water afterward. I was told that many of my classmates stopped taking the exam to make sure that I didn’t injure myself while having a seizure sitting in my chair.

It was a remarkable showing of solidarity, kindness, and collegiality. Keep in mind that these are students in their first year of law school at New York University. They have been told that their grades will determine whether they are selected for prestigious internships and jobs. In that moment, my classmates didn’t know whether there would be adjustments to the way the exam was graded or if they’d be penalized for showing up for me. And yet, they decided to help anyway.

I was grateful at the time. Looking back on it now, though, I wish I could tell them, “If you really want to help sick people like me, you’ll sign up for health insurance.”

I’m one of roughly 117 million people in the U.S. who have a “pre-existing medical condition.” In my case, I have epilepsy. Under the proposed GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, if I have to buy insurance privately, I could be charged more because of my epilepsy. The premiums charged could bankrupt me if young people choose not to sign up for healthcare because tax credits will be based on age, not income.

My first memories of having seizures are from when I was 10 years old. I was doing my math homework and kept losing my place. I did the same calculations over and over again as if my brain was hitting a reset button.

Now, at 26, I have been seizure-free for 18 months with the assistance of a combination of medications that I take three times a day. I have tried to come off of medications in the past but have always ended up having another seizure. Right now, it looks as though I will have to take medicine every day for the rest of my life.

Fortunately, I am among the two-thirds of people with epilepsy who can control their seizures with medicine. But without insurance coverage, the drugs that allow me to function at my full capacity would cost me hundreds of dollars a month out of pocket. I would end up having to make hard choices between food, rent, and medicine.

My focus in law school is criminal law. However, this past November, after the election of President Trump and his promise to repeal and replace Obamacare with something “better,” I quickly had to become an expert on health care policy. Because of my seizure disorder, my ability to function in school and in society depends on access to health care.

NYU Law, like many other universities, requires its students to have health insurance. But once we graduate, people my age can only gain access by purchasing insurance privately, finding an employer who offers health benefits (though is jeopardized under the GOP’s American Health Care Act), or qualifying for Medicaid.

Even with Obamacare’s individual mandate in place, many young people choose to go without health coverage. And if the Republicans’ plan to remove the mandate passes the Senate, it’s likely even fewer young people will become insured.

But I want my peers to realize that what keeps health care affordable for people like me is for those with fewer medical needs to sign up for insurance. Heath insurance functions kind of like splitting a cab – the more people in the pool, the less it costs.

One of the things that I have found most surprising as I’ve done this research, is that part of the reason the Affordable Care Act was not as successful initially as it could have been, is that not enough young people signed up to keep premiums at an affordable price. Though my peers in the classroom that day were quick to jump up when I needed their help, most people my age probably wouldn’t have signed up for health insurance, if not required to do so.

Getting healthy young people to care about health care is a battle politicians know well and have handled with varying degrees of success. I chuckle thinking back to President Obama’s chat with Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns and the many other efforts he made to reach young people where they are and encourage them to sign up for health care.

Many actuaries say that, for the individual health insurance market to be stable, 40 percent of enrollees need to be young and healthy. In 2014, that number was only 28 percent. The percentage stayed the same through 2016.

I often wonder why President Obama, when he was promoting the Affordable Care Act to millennials, didn’t bring out a young person like me to help my peers understand why it matters that they sign up for health insurance. Rather than trying to sell us on the affordability of enrollment, or relying on humor, or reminding us that we are not invincible, he could have relied on the compassion we exhibit one-on-one in supporting each other. After all, Barack Obama, relied on the youth vote to win both of his campaigns. He didn’t use gimmicks then — he spoke to young people as though we were capable of understanding our importance in the world. The 2016 election, which lacked substance and focused on negative campaigning, also saw a decrease in voter turnout among young people.

As politically aware, or “woke” as my peers seem to me, I worry that making the effort to understand and sign up for health insurance is low on people’s priority list. And I get it. There is a lot to be afraid of right now and a lot of areas needing attention. It’s almost too much to bear. I understand the impulse to look away, change the channel, or unfollow. But in the same way that people my age are galvanized to organize—whether that’s knitting a sea of pink hats, protesting in the streets, or calling their representatives– they can show up for who those that currently and those that will need heath care by going online right now, and signing up for heath insurance.

Aditi Juneja, 26, graduates from NYU Law School this week. 

 

 

Categories: Blog

For A Moderate Conservative at UC Berkeley, A Battle On Two Fronts

May 15, 2017 - 7:50am
Berkeley College Republican Jonathan Chow at a Trump Rally in Reno, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Chow

This past January, I was sitting in my Latin American Studies class when my professor walked in wearing a pink knitted hat, with two cat ears on stitched on top. You know the one I mean. Instead of starting his typical history lecture, he started talking to the class about President Donald J. Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, saying things like, “I know I’m a professor, but I have biases.”

I looked around the lecture hall. All around me, kids were nodding and doing that snapping thing with their fingers. A lot of people were like, yeah, we’re getting our free speech on. I smiled and didn’t say anything. I knew I was outnumbered.

That’s pretty typical when you’re a Republican at UC Berkeley.

I’ve been a Republican as long as I can remember. I’m used to be surrounded by people who disagree with me. I grew up in predominantly “blue” city–Miami, Florida– and went to a liberal-leaning high school. I really like having debates and discussions about politics. That’s part of what I hoped to find when I decided to go to UC Berkeley, one of the most liberal campuses in the United States, for undergrad. But instead of discovering open-minded individuals ready to debate their views, I found myself silenced by my liberal peers. In search of political and moral support, I joined the Berkeley College Republicans at the beginning of this past school year.

Being an official member of that organization has its ups and downs. It’s nice to talk openly about my political opinions openly, but it comes with a price. When I staff the group’s table on Sproul Plaza,  strangers come up to yell at me — and not in a fun “I want to debate you” kind of way. They call me a bad person. They ask me where I’m from (my family is from Cuba) and then tell me to go back there.  I’ve even been physically attacked.

And you know what? I get it. The organization has a bad name on campus. Affirmative action bake sales (that was before my time), Anne Coulter speaker requests, the whole Milo  Yiannopoulos thing. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in a healthy dose of controversy, but in my opinion, asking “Would you rather your child get feminism or cancer” isn’t controversial, it’s horrible. I have no interest in being around anyone who is alt-right. And most people — Berkeley Republicans included — don’t actually want these extreme speakers to show up. Yes, being provocative irritates the liberal masses, which can be funny, but in the end, it’s self-promotional, not thought-provoking. Some people say Berkeley College Republicans represent the new Free Speech Movement. That’s B.S. It’s playing the victim card, which, in my mind, is something Republicans just don’t do. And yet, I remain a member of the club, because I want to change Berkeley College Republicans from the inside. Until the hard-core conservatives and liberals around me tone things down, I feel like I’m a moderate stuck in the middle, fighting for reasonable discussion on two fronts.

I understand that Republicans at Berkeley may never be the majority. I would settle just to be tolerated. The way things are now, I feel like expressing my political opinions in class would be detrimental to my education. There are certain departments on campus I’m not sure would welcome a conservative student. It’s like I’m playing a four-year game of “Would you rather.” Would I rather keep my mouth shut and get good grades, or express myself and feel ostracized from my teachers, classmates, and professors? For now, at least in class, I choose to be silent. But I hope it’s not like that forever.

I want to listen to people who are interested in backing up their opinions– even those that are different from my own–with facts and sources. But that won’t happen as long as people on campus say “Republican” like it’s a dirty word.

And yet, I have hope. Occasionally, when I spend all day tabling on Sproul, there are some individuals who will come up to me and engage in a lively conversation — a real conversation. We’ll go back and forth on the ethics of abortion, or global warming, or gun regulations. In some cases, we start agreeing and coming up with new ideas on how to tackle these issues. And in those moments, it feels like the UC Berkeley I originally came for.

Jonathan Chow recently completed his third year at UC Berkeley. He is a member of the Berkeley College Republicans and studying history. His essay was produced by Youth Radio.

Categories: Blog

My Mom’s Graduation

May 14, 2017 - 7:00am
Photo Credit: Aaron Hawkins via Flickr

I just watched my mom graduate nursing school. She walked across the stage after six years of work, and I cheered like a madman.

My mom got pregnant with me when she was 21. She had just reached the legal drinking age, and already she was having a kid. She had to grow up faster than her peers, and take on a huge responsibility probably 10 years too early.

I remember on her first day of school, she came into my room with her back pack and her travel mug full of coffee, looking like an ecstatic little kid. I took my phone off the bedside table, and took a picture. I imagine this is how she must’ve felt, when she saw me off to my first day of high school.

Even in 2017, women are still commonly expected to put motherhood before their ambition. But watching my mom go through school, I got to see her as more than a mother, but as a woman empowered.

My mom made sure I had the opportunities she didn’t. She paid for me to participate in community theater, while working a job her heart wasn’t in, and taking loans from her parents. That’s why it was so satisfying to see her finally get her walk across that stage, and accept her diploma.

Categories: Blog

Then And Now: Teens Recreate Favorite Mom Photos

May 12, 2017 - 6:15pm

Teenagers can have a reputation for rejecting family time… but when we asked our youth reporters here at Youth Radio how they wanted to celebrate this Mother’s Day, they said they wanted to recreate classic childhood photos with their moms.

*sniff sniff* HOLD ON THERE’S SOMETHING IN MY EYE.

So grab some tissues, call your mama, and slide your way through these adorable side-by-side photos.

Oliver Riskin-Kutz and his mom recreated this photo in Lake Anza in Berkeley. The water was freezing, but they still had fun. “My dad came to take the picture. It was a nice family moment.”

Marie Sosa’s mom was 16 years old when she had her. Now, Marie is 19 years old. She said she enjoyed recreating this photo with her mom.

Sierra Fang-Horvath says recreating this touching staircase photo with her mom was “Good, and sad. A bittersweet moment because I don’t fit sitting between her legs anymore.”

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, Y’ALL!

Categories: Blog

510 Day: Reclaiming Gentrified Spaces In Oakland

May 12, 2017 - 4:46pm

510 Day is the official anti-gentrification day where Oakland natives come together at the lake to defy displacement. This year AllDay Play spun some Oakland slaps and live streamed the event. Check out the recap video.

Categories: Blog

“Why I Joined Antifa”: A Black Bloc Protester Explains His Reasons

May 11, 2017 - 3:31pm

The Anti-Fa movement in Berkeley is getting a lot of attention. They say they stand for “anti-fascism.” They’re also known for hiding behind black masks and destroying property during protests. Recently, the group used black bloc tactics and caused damage to the UC Berkeley campus in response to a scheduled appearance by conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos. The speech was canceled after the demonstration.

We wanted to know, from an insider’s viewpoint, what is Antifa all about? And why would you want to participate? A member of Anti-Fa explains why he choose to join up.

Categories: Blog

Joelle’s Story: After Depression, A Betrayal

May 11, 2017 - 1:04pm

By Joelle Faison

“Not having friends to confide in made my depression worse.”

Your best friends are supposed to keep your biggest secrets. And when that secret is clinical depression, a betrayal of trust can lead to a dark spiral, leading to more emotional walls, and more depression.

But there is another way.

Joelle’s story comes to us from Wide Angle Youth Media, our partners in Baltimore, Maryland.

Categories: Blog

This Mother’s Day, Don’t Forget Undocumented Moms

May 11, 2017 - 12:29pm
Artists at Jolt in Austin, Texas create a Mother’s Day live mural to honor immigrant moms. Source: Jolt

 By Viridiana Sanchez

 Mother’s Day is a big deal in my family. We go to church in the morning, spend the day reading letters to my mom, and in the evening, we have a nice dinner. But this year is going to be different because there fear in my heart. Earlier this week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed SB4, which bans sanctuary cities in the state. This makes me fear that one of these days my mom is going to go to work and never come home.

 

My mom is an immigrant from Mexico. She came to Texas when she was 25 years old. My dad and my little brother came to the U.S. first. My mom and I came later, we crossed the border together when I was just 5 years old. We walked along train tracks to get to Texas, just the two of us. It was a tough journey, but I am glad we’re here.

I love my mom Alma so much, she is an amazing mom. She’s always taking care of me and my brother. She goes to our school to check on our grades, and she always reminds us that we are immigrants and that and that we have to do our best in school to show people that we are like anyone else in this country. She’s strict but encouraging. When our grades drop she tells us, “You don’t want to be washing bathrooms like I am. You want to do something great in your life.” I really like that about her, she motivates us to good. I love my mom so much and I appreciate everything she has ever done for me and my brother.

My mom immigrated here because she wanted to give me and my brother a better life. She was afraid of violence and gangs and didn’t want us to grow up in that environment. She left everything she had behind to give us a brighter future.

In Mexico, my mom was a teacher. She worked as an elementary school teacher, but after getting her master’s degree in teaching, she taught all grades. She is a brilliant woman who worked hard to get her degrees. And she came to Texas knowing that she would have to give up her career. Without papers, she can’t work as a teacher. The first job my mom had here was cleaning houses, she was paid very little and her employer abused her. My mom still cleans houses but for a different employer. I know it’s not easy and I know she does it for me and my brother so that we can have food our table every day.

My mom left so much behind just so that my brother and I could have a better life. It’s amazing how a mother could do that and I am so grateful. Her sacrifice makes me want to work hard in school. I want to graduate, go to college and do as much as I can to let her know that her sacrifice was worth it and that she was right to bring us here.

If my mom was deported and didn’t come home one day, it would be the hardest day of my life. Not having my mom to care for me and my mother and encourage us would be devastating. I can’t imagine my life without my mom, she is the center of my universe.

And I am not alone. Here in Texas, there are hundred of thousands of kids just like me and my brother living in fear that we could be separated from our moms at any moment. That’s not right. I wish that the lawmakers who voted for SB4 and Governor Greg Abbott would think about kids like me and the fear we have that our families will be torn apart, that any day my mom could go to work and never come back.

Just like in past years, this Mother’s Day I am going to celebrate my mom by writing her letters and giving her flowers. I am going to cherish every moment that I have with her. But I am also going to recommit myself to taking action and organizing my community to help end SB4 and protect my mom and other immigrant moms like her. I will not forget those who are trying to separate my family. And I will never stop fighting for my mom.

 Viridiana’s story comes to us from Jolt: a Texas-based multi-issue organization that builds the political power and influence of Latinos in our democracy. It was written for their live mural event “Poderosa,” honoring immigrant mothers, and was produced on May 11th, 2017.

Categories: Blog

With “13 Reasons Why Not,” High Schoolers Honor Friends Who Saved Them

May 10, 2017 - 2:37pm

A group of kids from Oxford High School in Michigan have created their own version of the controversial Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why,” with a twist. They call it “13 Reasons Why Not.”

With support from teachers, each student creates an audio recording of a personal struggle–just like on the show. But instead of framing these painful experiences as reasons to harm themselves, the kids at Oxford High thank a person who helped them get through their darkest times. The stories play over the intercom each morning, for the whole school to hear. The project will go on for 13 days.

On the same day that his story played at school on May 9th, 18-year-old Dylan Koss talked with Youth Radio’s Valencia White about what it’s been like to be a part of “13 Reasons Why Not,” and why the project is so important for his community, and teens in general.

The following conversation has been lightly edited.

Valencia White, Youth Radio: How did the idea for 13 Reasons Why Not come about?

Dylan Koss: Three years ago, a student, Megan Abbott, committed suicide in the woods behind our school. Her family is who we’re doing it for. The show [13 Reasons Why] factored into it, but the suicide was more our driving force, and how to make a tribute to her and help kids at the same time.

VW: Can you explain how it works–what you all are doing at your school every morning?

DK: The day before, a student is selected, and we take into account how that student will handle the situation, if they’re in a healthy spot to talk about it, and able to take any kind of backlash (if there is, which there hasn’t been for any of the seven of us who went). We type up a script, we record it, and then the next day, it’s played right when school starts. It just plays that one time. After that, the seven of us will go to Twitter and Tweet at this person, to tell them how strong they are, and just kind of give them positive feedback right off the bat, so any negative comments are squashed almost immediately.  So far it’s working. There’s a dialogue at school between students and staff–suicide is being talked about.

VW: What story did you share in your recording?

DK: I’m an openly gay student in Oxford, so I talk about my struggles with that. My family’s Catholic, so for me, coming out was kind of a scary thing. For some Catholics–I wasn’t aware that my family wouldn’t react this way–but for some Catholics, that’s a sin. I was nervous to tell them, for the fear of them cutting me off.

[LISTEN TO THE STORY DYLAN PLAYED OVER THE SCHOOL INTERCOM HERE]

https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.youthradio.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/10144515/dylan.mp3

Another thing I talked about is how the word gay is used. For example, if a kid says “that was so gay,” it has a very negative connotation to the word and how people see it. And then we talk about our reason, “Why not.” I talked about one of my close friends. I have a bond with her that I don’t have with anybody else. I can hit her up in the middle of the night, and she’ll text right back.

VW: How did your friend feel when she heard this tape?

DK: She actually started crying, not because she was upset, but because she couldn’t believe that I chose her. I don’t think she realized that she meant as much to me as she does. She texted me and said she couldn’t believe she heard my voice talking about my struggles and then her name in the same tape.

Courtesy of Dylan Koss

VW: What were your first thoughts when you got that text?

DK: When I got that text, I was thrilled. I knew she would be excited that I chose her, because like I said, I don’t think she knew that she meant as much as she does. I was thrilled, like I was overcome with excitement. I knew she felt the same way… It was one of those moments where you have this bond with someone, that’s really hard to find.   

VW: Before the recording, had you ever shared your story with anyone?

DK: I haven’t. What I talked about in the tape was the first time anyone heard it. We actually have to call and get approval from our parents to do the tape. We called my mom and she said yes, that I could do the recording, and after she asked me why I hadn’t told her [about the bullying he experienced from other kids for being gay]. There is really no reason why I didn’t tell her, so I had to tell her, I don’t know why.   

YR: What was that conversation like? Was it awkward?

DK: Talking about it with my mom is definitely awkward. I don’t know, it just must be like a mother-with-your kid kind of thing. Talking about the things people said to me and the things I’ve heard, while I’ve come to terms with it, it’s hard to talk about still. And to talk about it with a parent, it’s even harder.  

VW: What do you think would’ve happened if your friend hadn’t helped you?

DK: I truthfully don’t know. I don’t think I would have shared my story. She has given me courage to do things I wouldn’t typically do. So I think if she wasn’t in my life, we would not be having this conversation right now. Not because I would have committed suicide, but because I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

VW: What was it like for you to share such a personal story in such a public way?

DK: It’s strange, but at the same time it’s a weight lifted off your shoulders. When I was originally writing down what I wanted to talk about, I started to shake. Like I said, I’ve come to terms with what happened, and I’ve moved on. But putting it out is totally different. When you come to terms with something, you don’t think about putting it out there again. So to put it on paper, it’s emotional. You have emotions attached that you think are gone. You hear it over the PA, it’s almost surreal.

VW: Did any of your family members, besides your mom, listen to your recording? What were their reactions?  

DK: I took a picture of the script that I had and I sent it to my dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Everyone was super proud. My grandmother, who’s super Catholic, called me and started crying and told me how she wants me to know that she loves me, no matter what.  It’s a luxury that many kids don’t have.

VW: Did you have any concerns doing this?

DK:I have zero regrets. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t anything that I was worried about. I have received no negative feedback at all. Everything has been support and how courageous you must be to do that. And there have been six other people that have gone before me, and they have said there’s no negative backlash.

The “13 Reasons Why Not” stories will continue to play each morning at Oxford High School until May 18th.

Categories: Blog

Keep Calm And Listen To This New Music Video From Firstclass GD

May 10, 2017 - 2:11pm

Ah, to be young and in love and without a care in the world… except maybe a rogue bird or two.

Youth Radio recently collaborated with Firstclass GD on a new music video for his single “Want You” from his recently released EP Stuck In Love.

So turn off the news and turn up the volume. Happy Wednesday, y’all.

Categories: Blog

Tattooing My Lost Identity

May 7, 2017 - 8:00am
Photo by: eheçåtzin ::  ::. via Flickr

I have four tattoos on my body, and I’m saving up for more. Each new piece is a way for me to connect to an identity that was stripped from me.

Every time I get tatted, my tattoo artist says, “Cheers!” It’s a cause of celebration.

When I was one and a half, I was taken from my biological family and put into foster care. So I grew up not knowing my own family history, or even where I came from. Then, when I was 18, a cousin on my father’s side found me on Instagram. She told me our family is from a city in Mexico called Uruapan, in the state Michoacan.

After we spoke, I got a sunstone tatted on my right forearm. When I look at it, it makes me feel more connected to my indigenous Latin culture.

I’m using tattoos to inscribe my family’s story on my skin, because I went so long not knowing my history or my identity. Having it inked on my body will ensure I can never forget.

Categories: Blog

13 Reasons Why: New Netflix Series Receives Backlash

May 5, 2017 - 1:48pm

Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has received a lot of criticism and praise for its graphic content. The series sets out to expose the troubles teens face today, and raise awareness about bullying and suicide amongst teens. But could the series be negatively impacting teen mental health? We asked a high school counselor to weigh in on the controversy.

Categories: Blog

Netflix and Chill Out, Y’all: A Review Of ‘Dear White People’

May 5, 2017 - 1:44pm

Youth Radio’s resident movie reviewer, Riley Lockett, has a message for y’all before you lose your minds about the new Netflix series Dear White People: try actually watching it.

Categories: Blog

13 Reasons Why: Helping Or Hurting?

May 5, 2017 - 1:31pm

Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has received a lot of criticism and praise for its graphic content. The series sets out to expose the troubles teens face today, and raise awareness about bullying and suicide amongst teens. But could the series be negatively impacting teen mental health? We asked a high school counselor to weigh in on the controversy.

Categories: Blog

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