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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 59 min ago

Your Most Awkward Questions About They/Them Pronouns, Answered

July 27, 2017 - 3:35pm

People say the darnedest things about the singular “they.”

When I tell someone that my preferred pronouns are they/them/their, I never know what to expect. Sometimes people say okay and move on, but other times, they’ll start to ask a whole bunch of questions that I don’t really feel like answering. It’s usually well intentioned; I get that people are just trying to understand. But I do get tired of explaining the same things over and over.

So to save everyone (myself included) some time and confusion, I’ve rounded up some responses to the most common weird questions I get about my pronouns.

Illustration by Desmond Meagley

“You look like a boy/girl. Why use they instead of he/she?”

I look like me. That’s all there is to it. If someone else looks at me and decides I am something or another based on the clothes I’m wearing, or whether or not I’m wearing make up, that assumption is on them: it has nothing to do with who or what I actually am.

“You’re only one person! How does that work?”

It’s really, really simple. In English, we already use singular “they” all the time when the gender of a person is unknown. Say you see fifty bucks on the ground and pick it up. You might say:

“Oh, someone dropped their money here. I’ll set it aside for them, I bet they are looking everywhere!”

Using “he or she” and “his or hers” in this situation is awkward and clunky, so we use singular they instead. When someone uses they/them pronouns, all you have to do is apply that same sentence construction:

“Oh, Desmond dropped their money here. I’ll set it aside for them, I bet they are looking everywhere!”

Now if only I could get fifty bucks every time someone’s rude about my gender. No, I’m kidding. Let’s move on.

Illustration by Desmond Meagley

“I’m fine with non-binary people, but I don’t believe in singular they pronouns. It makes no sense.”

Not only are you on the wrong side of history, you’re on the wrong side of English, my friend.

Major dictionaries have recognized singular they as grammatically correct for years, including the Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, and dictionary.com. The word “they” has been used as a singular pronoun since at least the 16th century, and some argue it goes back even earlier. We’re not making new words and grammar up here. The AP Style Guide has even started to allow the usage of singular they in cases where a subject doesn’t identify as male or female.

Clearly, it makes sense to a lot of people who know a lot about the English language, so I don’t know why everyone gets so hung up on this.

“My non-binary friend is okay with being called he/she, so I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Oh boy.

If you’re using the pronoun your friend told you to use, great. Non-binary people can use binary pronouns. Personally, I use both he and they, and I don’t mind either one. It doesn’t make me less non-binary, and the words and terms that make me comfortable don’t apply to everyone.

But… (This is a very big but.)

If your friend prefers singular they, but doesn’t correct you when you use he or she instead, chances are it’s because they don’t feel safe doing so. They may be afraid of getting into an awkward or dangerous situation by repeating themselves to someone who won’t listen.

It takes a lot of courage to reveal such personal information to others, and when someone comes out to you, it’s because they trust you enough to tell you something really important. I guarantee you’re not getting a free pass, you’re just making someone quietly uncomfortable, and potentially losing a friend.

Seriously, stop! And while you’re at it, you should probably say sorry to them.

Illustration by Desmond Meagley. Design by Teresa Chin

“I try to use they/them pronouns when people ask, but it’s so hard! I keep messing it up.”

That’s okay! It happens to everyone. It takes time to adjust to new ways of speaking and thinking. Personally, I would much rather my friends and family mess up than give up entirely.

All I ask is for you to not make it my problem. Getting really apologetic or changing the subject to how difficult you find my pronouns won’t make me feel any more comfortable after I’ve been misgendered. Don’t tell me that you’re trying, show me. Try, and then if you get it wrong, correct yourself and move on.

Of course, there are people out there who will be harsh about good-faith mistakes. Sometimes it’s because they’re sensitized to being gendered a certain way. Other times, they’re just jerks. (Jerks come in all genders.) But in general, accidentally messing up pronouns is not the end of the world, as long as you’re holding yourself accountable.

Categories: Blog

Oakland Mix Tape: The Come Up

July 27, 2017 - 1:55pm

Youth Radio’s Arts Team has put together a mix tape of Oakland’s best youth-made songs. The long awaited Remix Your Life mixtape “The Come Up”  is live and available here!  The compilation features creative work from Hasinnie Bennett, Ericson Sandoval, Sunday Simon, Shyra Gums, Damani Chadley, Garion Delaney, Edna Miller, Oluwafemi Ajala, Isaiah Richardson, Anatesia King, Jada Washington, Marcel Cedeno and Eli Arbreton.


Categories: Blog

City Slam: Black In Three Movements

July 27, 2017 - 1:44pm

Youth Radio’s Soraya Shockley shares a bit of her experience as an African American person growing up in the United States, including a lesson she learned from a kindergarten experience where she had to choose a crayon to match her skin tone.

Categories: Blog

My Brother Converted To Christianity, And Now I’m Worried I’ve Lost Him

July 27, 2017 - 9:32am

Last summer, my family spent practically all of our time together. This summer, we had a lot of fun too, but something was missing — my brother Cole.

He was busy taking summer college courses–though that’s not the only thing that kept him from us. He also has what he calls a second family.

When my brother returned home from his first weeks at college last September, I was excited to hear all about how it was going. Dorm life, cafeteria food, and frat parties. Instead, when my family sat down at the table to eat, Cole closed his eyes, clasped his hands, and silently mouthed grace.

My jaw dropped in shock.

Atheism is all we’d ever known. But the first friends Cole made on campus belonged to a Southern Baptist church group. Not long after, he converted.

My parents are trying to understand. They read those books about spirituality and even went to Easter church services. It’s been harder for me to accept.

Early on, I asked Cole, “Do you think that when I die, I’ll go to Hell?”

I expected him to say, “Of course not! You’re a good person.” But without pausing, he told me that if I didn’t repent for my sins, then yeah, I would.

I wanted to scream that I’m his sister. Regardless of the Bible’s rules, he knows I’m a good person. I guess he has more faith in God than he has in me.

I also have to own that I’ve made some very mortal mistakes on the road to acceptance. I fought with my brother a lot about his beliefs. I even laughed at him when he tried to explain them. Would a good person laugh at their own brother for something he cares about?

I want to hold onto the Cole of my childhood, the one who climbed trees and loved making stupid puns with me. In some ways, we’re not those people anymore. We’re both changing so much.

The thing I’ve learned through this, is that I can’t choose to focus on our differences.

Yes, he’s Cole the Southern Baptist, but he’s also Cole — my funny, smart best friend.


Categories: Blog

Race/Related: My First Encounter With Racism

July 26, 2017 - 5:14pm

Youth Radio in the NYTimes, Race/Related newsletter*

*The full text will be available on Thursday, July 27th at the time the stories are published in The New York Times.

As part of our partnership with the New York Times Race/Related, Youth Radio correspondents from around the country described their lasting memories of a first encounter with racism. Whether it was being stopped by a police officer, called a racial slur by kids in elementary school, or experiencing stereotypes as an unaccompanied minor in a new country, these experiences shaped who they are today.

Youth Radio has a long history of reporting on issues of race and identity. The work represents the heart of what we do: exploring society’s most complicated issues through the experiences of young people. We’ve gathered some of our reporters’ most memorable stories on these issues below.


Photo courtesy of Riley Locket

Riley Lockett, 16, Black – Oakland, California

About a month ago, I was walking to the BART station from school, sipping on soda, and listening to a podcast when I noticed a blue uniform following me like a shadow. It was a white police officer. He scanned me like he was the Terminator trying to see if I was a threat. I had never been stopped by a cop before. But I wasn’t scared or even nervous. I was prepared.

Read the rest of Riley’s essay soon…

Photo courtesy of Marianne Nacanaynay

Marianne Nacanaynay, 16, Filipina – Mountlake Terrace, Washington

The first time someone directed a racial slur towards me, I was at a pizza place in Everett, a town in western Washington State…I was waiting outside of the restaurant and chatting on the phone, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw two dudes walking by. They were young-looking — teens or 20-somethings — with light skin and blonde/brown hair. As they passed me, I heard them laugh and say, “f—king chink.”

It took me a few moments to process what I had just heard. I was taken aback, but not exactly surprised. After all, there I was, a Filipina reporter covering a Pro-Trump rally.

Read the rest of Marianne’s essay soon…

Photo courtesy of Maya James

Maya James, 19, Biracial (Black/White) – Traverse City, Michigan

Shortly after enrolling in elementary school, one of my classmates threw the n-word at me in a small scuffle. I cannot remember what the little boy was so upset about — it was probably something elementary school students usually get upset about. Maybe I was hogging the markers; maybe I cut in line, or vice versa.

It was the first time I had ever heard that word. I didn’t know how to react. I had many questions. Should I be upset? Could I call the white student the n-word too? Who invented this word? Do adults use the word?

Read the rest of Maya’s essay soon…

Photo courtesy of Bresee Youth Center, Los Angeles

Jose, 16, Salvadoran – Los Angeles, California

(Jose is using his first name only to protect his privacy. His essay has been translated from Spanish to English)

I remember the first day I learned what American “racism” means. My friend and I were walking home from school, and we walked by a white couple. They looked at us and started talking to each other in hushed tones. We couldn’t understand everything they said, but we caught some bad stuff about Latinos and immigration, and we knew they were talking about us. We just kept on walking. It’s not worth getting into a back-and-forth. It’s better just to be quiet.

They don’t know the stuff that we had to go through back home.  

Read the rest of Jose’s essay soon…

Categories: Blog

All Day Play Fundraiser Night at SomaR

July 26, 2017 - 3:45pm

The monthly happy hour fundraiser for All Day Play–our music station–will take place on August 17th from 6-10pm.

Join All Day Play DJs as our DJs hold it down and the bar donates part of the proceeds to the station.


SomaR Bar and Lounge
1727 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, Ca 94612

Must be 21+ years to enter.

Categories: Blog

Applications Open: Fall 2017 Session

July 25, 2017 - 3:56pm

Youth Radio’s Fall 2017 training session will begin on September 18th, and we’re taking applications for new participants now.

High school students between the ages of 14-18 are eligible to apply for our in-house training programs. After 6 months, students are eligible to apply for paid internships in all departments at Youth Radio.

Categories: Blog

Don’t Wait To Tell Your Friends How Much They Mean To You

July 21, 2017 - 3:16pm

My friends are complete oddballs. With them, there is no in between. They are either extremely loud and expressive or very quiet and timid. But they all share similar struggles. Many of them deal with anxiety, depression, insomnia or all three.

More than half of my friends struggle with mental illnesses. And some have even attempted suicide. 

I often see them come to school looking tired as if they haven’t slept in days– for some that’s actually true.

My friend once mentioned that I happened to text her in the middle of a suicide attempt. I had said to her, “you’re my best friend.” It was a random text I sent, but if it wasn’t for it, she said later, she wouldn’t be here.

It’s often the people closest to us who are having hidden struggles. You may not realize it, but a few simple, kind words or check in can be a good start for a person to get the help they need.

It turns out that just being a friend, can make a difference in a person’s life. Now I’m inspired to be more proactive to tell people how much they mean to me. 

Categories: Blog

Youth Radio Raw: Too Turnt Radio Episode 3

July 21, 2017 - 12:38pm

Welcome to the 3rd  episode of “Too Turnt Radio” on Youth Radio Raw.

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

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

I’m Compromising Myself And My Blackness To Push Social Change

July 19, 2017 - 12:08pm
Maya James crouches in front of one of her favorite hangout spots, the cistern at the Grand Traverse Commons, in her hometown of Traverse City, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Maya James.

My hometown of Traverse City, Michigan, is a vast land of freshwater, blue skies, wildlife and green as far as the eye can see…and three different hate groups within a three-hour drive of my house.

It’s complicated living in this mostly white town. I’m mixed – my dad is black and my mom is white. So I stick out. But there’s a lot to love about this place: falling asleep to the sound of cricket whispers and the smell of wild flowers, family gatherings and bonfires on the beach. That’s partly why I decided to stay here for college.

This beautiful town is also a great place for hate, and it hides so easily here.

In college, I’ve gotten used to hearing other students throw around racial slurs and laugh. And driving around campus, I see cars with Confederate flag license plates. During one campus forum on race issues, when black students raised objections to the Confederate flag and its associations with slavery, it seemed to offend a majority of the students there.

No matter how hard the other black students and faculty members tried to explain our everyday struggle living here, the white students still disregarded us. They said things like, “My girlfriend is black so I can’t be racist,” or “It’s about Southern pride.” Except, we are in the North. And the Civil War is over.

In social situations, the conversations just end if race comes up. A few students invited me to a party last year, and a large group started talking about “what black people do” while playing the game Cards Against Humanity. Jokingly, I blurted, “Oh, come on, white folks.”

The room fell silent, and everyone avoided talking to me afterward.

When I started the Black Student Union at my college, I had to beg three students to sign on. But the club never got off the ground and disbanded because I could not get enough interest.

So I changed the name to be more inclusive: Students United for Social and Environmental Justice. I just hope the umbrella is big enough to attract members and bring civil rights actions to campus. We are trying out our first meeting in September.

I get it — the more that you embrace your “blackness” here, the less people want to do with you.
I’ve had to compromise myself and my community more than I want, hoping for diversity and dialogue. At the moment, those hopes are more pipe dream than reality.

Categories: Blog

Whose Art Is It Anyway? What To Do If Your Work Is Stolen Online

July 19, 2017 - 11:22am

The Internet can be an incredible and terrifying place for artists. Social media in particular has become a powerful tool to share work, reach new eyes, and put our work out into the world. This, of course, is a double-edged sword because not everyone on the Internet has an artist’s best interests in mind–sometimes not even other artists.

Take the case of Richard Prince who took 39 portraits curated from his Instagram feed and sold them as his own — selling one portrait for a reported $90,000. While Prince’s stunt may have arguably been a commentary on the precariousness of social media as a platform for artists it also reflects the scary reality faced by professional artists in the digital age.


Photograph by Cindy Trinh.

This week I spoke to Cindy Trinh, an activist and photographer based in New York City. Her photographic work ranges from the festive to the politically-charged and everything in between. She has been featured at the Museum of the City of New York and pop up exhibitions at the Annual Fundraiser for Equality Fund, Asian Americans for Equality and the Annual Asian American Community Development Conference.  She also regularly posts her work to social media and has had her work stolen a number of times.

I spoke with Trinh about her advice for artists when they are confronted with people stealing their work online.

Sayre Quevedo:  Tell me about your experience with having your work stolen. How often has it happened? How did you find out and how did you respond?

Cindy Trinh: I have a photo blog and I post my images on several social media accounts, including Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook. Many of my photos have been stolen from my social media accounts and posted on other accounts without credit to me. This happens very often. Most times I can’t do much about it besides try to message the account holder to include credit to me. I recently had to deal with an artist who stole my image and used it in her artwork that she was trying to sell for profit in a gallery. I threatened legal action against her, it was a very troubling experience and extremely stressful.


Sayre Quevedo: Have you tried to protect your work from theft since it has happened? How so?

Cindy Trinh: I spoke with an attorney who represents photographers and photojournalists and I now work with him to catch any theft of my work on the Internet. Many law firms have software that can detect when your image has been used illegally by someone else. This has helped tremendously.


Photograph by Cindy Trinh.

Sayre Quevedo: The internet can be a sketchy place sometimes. Why share the work there? What is the benefit for you as an artist?

Cindy Trinh: I know the risks of posting my images on the Internet, but for the kind of work that I do I feel it is a necessary evil. I document activism and social justice movements in New York and it is important for me to share what is happening in the streets. Social media has given people the tools to share things in real time. It is a great way to educate the masses and to shed light on issues to a wider audience.


Sayre Quevedo: Do you have advice for other artists who share their work publicly via social media?

Cindy Trinh: My advice around protecting your work would be to consult with a lawyer who works on a contingency fee. There is no retainer fee and therefore no charge to you up front. It helps to have access to that special software that can detect when your work has been stolen, otherwise it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. Lawyers who work on contingency will only take a percentage of whatever money you are awarded if there is an infringement.

I also think a lot of artists use watermarks and that’s really up to each person. It’s usually the first precaution people take when sharing on the internet.


Sayre Quevedo: So it’s sort of play-at-your-own-risk unless you’re willing to hire a lawyer?

Cindy Trinh: Yeah pretty much. It’s hard to protect everything on the internet. I think including disclaimers might help, but not much. People tend to steal anyways.

You can see more of Trinh’s work on her website, facebook, and instagram (@cindytrinh.v)

Categories: Blog

Youth Radio Raw: Too Turnt Radio Episode 2

July 18, 2017 - 4:56pm

Welcome to the 2nd  episode of “Too Turnt Radio” on Youth Radio Raw.

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

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: Too Turnt Radio Episode 1

July 18, 2017 - 4:52pm



Welcome to the 1st  episode of “TooTurnt Radio” on Youth Radio Raw.

Make sure you tune in every Friday from 6:15 to 7:35!

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

“Hyphiachi”: Finding Inspiration In My Bay Area Blend Of Cultures

July 18, 2017 - 11:24am

Growing up I was confused about of who I was. My family is from Mexico, but I didn’t know much about my culture. I lived in a neighborhood in Oakland where I felt you were looked down upon if you spoke Spanish. It seemed to me that, if you were white, it was a safe place to live.

So I did my best to blend in.

At school, I was always a darker shade than other kids, so I felt extra pressure to “behave Caucasian” to make up for that. It didn’t work. Kids would point out that I was “different.” They’d count me out of games because and shout at me, “No this game is not for you.” It made me felt all empty and bad inside. I didn’t want to tell my parents because I was scared of how they would react.

Then, in 5th grade, I moved to a new school. For the first time, I was around other Mexican kids. On one level, I felt accepted. I didn’t look different than the other kids. But other times, I felt like I wasn’t Mexican enough. I was made fun of for not speaking Spanish and not putting hot sauce on my food.

It seemed like no matter where I was, I wasn’t either not white enough or not Mexican enough, and that sucked. But I found my inspiration to pull through it all in an unexpected place. I was in 6th grade, listening to the radio on the drive home from school, and  a song came on. I listened to the lyrics:

I’m not afraid
To take a stand
Come take my hand come
We’ll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just letting you know that, you’re not alone
Holla if you feel like you’ve been down the same road

I found hope in these lyrics. I found out later the song was by Eminem, who was white but had been hated on for taking up rap, a so-called “black only” culture.

I figured that if he found his way, I could too. And I could do it with music.


Mariachi music is part of my culture and the Bay Area is the birthplace of hyphy music. In the beat I made above, I decided to mix the sounds together and create this beat. I sampled mariachi music then pretty much just played out the individual trumpet sounds to get a nice sound. Then I hyphy-fide it with base and high hats.

My diverse background gives me the opportunity to create beats that not only represent me but others around me and allows me to grow as a music producer. Now, I have made over 100 beats in my free time so I can try new ideas and learn from my mistakes. I can also fill up pages with poems from my own creative mind. I have pushed myself to get to where I am today.

I plan to continue on this path so I can one day become a positive influence in the Bay Area. Rather than try to blend in, I’m creating art that celebrates how I stick out.

Categories: Blog

More Women Are Choosing To Code, But Is Silicon Valley Ready For Them?

July 13, 2017 - 5:05pm
Christy Duong, 17, is planning to major in computer science this fall and hopes to eventually work in tech, but said she also expects to confront sexism along the way. Photo: Brett Myers/Youth Radio

Camila Miner is learning computer programming for the first time, and she’s doing it totally surrounded by women.

Miner is part of a 22-woman cohort at Hackbright Academy, an all-female coding boot camp in San Francisco, where classroom walls are covered in cheerful Post-It notes with handwritten affirmations like “You’re amazing.” There’s a framed poster from Hidden Figures, the movie about the female African-American mathematicians who helped NASA win the space race. The vibe is overwhelmingly supportive. Some students are even high-fiving each other as teams of two work through the day’s assignment.

Miner considered going to college after emigrating from Brazil but instead opted for boot camp at Hackbright, paying $16,500 for a 12-week course she hopes will result in an entry-level tech job. In fact, she thinks that being a woman might give her a leg up in job interviews with tech companies trying to fix gender imbalance among their ranks.

Hackbright is not alone its mission to empower female coders. Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and Technovation all share the goal of getting more women into tech. Combined, the organizations claim to have reached over 38,000 female coders-in-training.

Clearly, more young women are ready to invest in tech…but is tech ready to invest in them?

Women make up about half of the overall workforce in the U.S., but only about a quarter of the tech workforce. Even industry leaders have work to do.

According to a 2015 report on diversity conducted by McKinsey, gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to financially outperform companies with a predominately male workforce.

For many companies, the challenge goes beyond recruiting new female tech talent — the trick is retaining them. That often comes down to culture. According to Elephant in the Valley, a high-profile survey of over 200+ women who have spent at least 10 years working in tech, the majority of respondents said they felt excluded from key networking/career building opportunities in social settings because of their gender — like golf games or gatherings at the local bar. Women also reported experiencing unwanted sexual advances, and being told they were “too aggressive.”

Back at Hackbright, first-time-coder Camila Miner said that while she’s aware of the challenges, she and fellow students try to remain optimistic.

“We focus mostly on being good enough,” Miner said, “so there’s going to be no reason for anybody to bring up, ‘Well, you’re not a man and you’re not good enough’.” 

Camila Miner, 26, is enrolled in a 12-week computer coding course for women. She hopes it will lead to an entry-level tech job in the San Francisco Bay Area. Photo: Brett Myers/Youth Radio

But Allison Scott, lead researcher on the 2017 Tech Leavers Survey from the Kapor Center for Social Impact, says that being good at what you do isn’t enough.“We found that women experience significantly more unfairness than men,” said Scott.

Along with fellow researchers, Scott surveyed more than 2,000 people about why they left jobs in the tech industry. Women in the study reported higher instances than men of being stereotyped, sexually harassed, and being passed over for promotions. Women of color reported the highest rate of unfair treatment. 

“Unfairness alone costs companies a staggering  $16 billion per year,” Scott said, referring to the high cost of turnover and recruitment.

Source: The Kapor Center 2017 Tech Leavers Study

When Danielle Olson, 25, first earned admission to MIT as an undergraduate Computer Science & Engineering student, she said that some high school classmates told her that she only got accepted because she was black. Olson says it took years before she finally felt like she belonged.

“I really believed that I had to be Bill Nye the Science Guy to be successful in engineering or science,” Olson said. “You know, have his personality type, his interests — even the way he dressed and looked and talked.”

Now Olson is pursuing a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at MIT, with plans to become a college professor and mentor others in computer science, bit by bit encouraging the next generation of women to de-program Silicon Valley’s dude bias.

“The more I learn about engineering and science, the more I realize how important it is that I’m here,” said Olson, adding that when there’s greater diversity at the coding table, it’s easier to prevent algorithmic bias and build better products.

Danielle Olson, a 25-year-old Ph.D. computer science candidate at MIT, said she battled imposter syndrome for years before feeling like she belonged. Photo: Jason Dorfman

But what can companies do to address the gender imbalance? The Kapor study about Tech Leavers found that hiring an inclusion director and setting diversity goals actually helps retain female tech workers. And a study released this past June by FundersClub, an online startup investing platform, says tech startups with at least one female founder hire twice as many women overall.

In August, 17-year-old Christy Duong will start her freshman year at UC Merced, studying Computer Science and Engineering. She believes gender discrimination shouldn’t deter young women hoping to write their careers in code.

“If you like it then you should do it, regardless of gender,” Duong said, adding that if she encounters gender discrimination in the workplace, she is prepared to address it head on. “I’ll tell them to stop because it’s not comfortable and it’s not appropriate.”

And if the sexism didn’t stop? What would she do?

Duong thought for a moment.

“Then…I’m just going to suck it up and deal with it. Because I would like a job.”



Categories: Blog

“Code For What?”  Around The World

July 12, 2017 - 1:57pm


From the heart of Downtown Oakland to the shores of Hong Kong: Youth Radio brings a message about Computational Literacy.


This week, Youth Radio Interactive Co-Founder Asha Richardson takes the learnings from our one-of-a-kind partnership with MIT App Inventor to the first International Conference on Computational Thinking Education (CTE2017) in Hong Kong. She’ll be a featured presenter at this “worldwide sharing of ideas” about how to advance computational thinking in students.

“I’m so excited to be representing Youth Radio,” said Richardson. “ It is amazing to bring our young people’s interactive storytelling and mobile apps to an international audience. I’m looking forward to sharing our youth-adult collaborative production model with educators from around the world.”

At the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Richardson will share Youth Radio’s signature approach to computer science education, which moves beyond the call to teach “Code for All” by insisting that we ask the question, “Code for What?”

That’s Youth Radio’s way of getting students to move beyond the idea that they should learn to code simply because it’s what everyone says they should do and instead see it as a way to solve problems in their lives and communities. By coming back to the question “Code for What?” students link civic and social problem-solving to coding, in the process building their “Critical Computational Literacy.”

More than a classroom exercise, this approach has helped young people under-represented in STEM fields acquire computer and data science skills, while developing professional products that are distributed in the marketplace. This process reflects Youth Radio’s best practices of melding education, civic engagement, and cutting-edge job skills.

In 2010, Youth Radio established our Innovation Lab with the help of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s App Inventor program and support from the National Science Foundation and other funders. Since then, the Lab has created a rich portfolio of apps that address pressing social issues including youth mental health, electoral politics, and environmental justice.

The end result: proof that conventional wisdom about teens and their phones–that they are sources of distraction, addiction, and abuse—doesn’t tell the whole story.

Richardson will share what Youth Radio has accomplished, and will connect with other innovators from around the globe in order to bring back their insights. Thus the virtuous circle of collaboration continues, preparing the next generation of Youth Radio-trained coders to tackle the next generation of challenges.

Categories: Blog

Should System-Engaged Youth Have “Reasonable Access” To The Internet?

July 11, 2017 - 4:51pm

Youth in California detention centers, like juvenile hall, are not guaranteed access to technology. Even in the foster care system, there is nothing in writing that gives youth rights to access technology of any kind.

California Assembly Bill 811, which was introduced by state Assemblymember Mike Gipson earlier this year, aims to change that.

The bill would help ensure that youth in out-of-home placements, including the juvenile justice and foster care systems, would have “reasonable access to technology.” Bill 811 is being set to be voted on the Senate floor this September and is being backed by Facebook and the Youth Law Center.

Youth Radio’s Natalie Bettendorf spoke to Lucy Carter, the policy advocate for the Youth Law Center, about what it would mean for youth to have “reasonable access” to the Internet. 

The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Natalie Bettendorf, Youth Radio: What is the current policy for accessing technology in youth detention facilities and youth in the foster care system?

Lucy Carter: Well, there aren’t formal policies in place. So it’s very site-specific and family-placement-specific. So, for example, one foster youth might have ongoing access to [the] Internet in their family but another foster youth who is in a group home might not have any access to the Internet when they are home, making it very difficult for them to do their homework and get their homework assignments. So if you’re in a group home that doesn’t have a computer with Internet access then you have to go to a library or not get your homework done.


NB: There’s definitely a stigma with adolescents and screen usage. What do you say to people who push back on the idea that Internet access is a basic right?

LC: It’s just fundamental to how we live in today’s society. If we don’t help young people learn technology skills, we are not preparing them to be in the world of work. I mean, we use technology every day in our work lives, and if they do not have those skills then they are behind. They already face challenges in being able to have good educational outcomes and to have good careers and to thrive, and the last thing we want to do is take [access to technology] away too. We need them to have the opportunities to learn the technology skills they need to have to survive in today’s work world.


NB: What does “reasonable internet access” mean?

LC: So “reasonable” is left up to the caregiver to determine. So for example a grandparent who’s caring for a grandchild in foster care might not have the means because they’re living on Social Security to buy the latest technology for their grandchild. Reasonable access to technology in that case might mean going to the library twice a week so that their grandchild can get online and get homework assignments completed. Another example would be in the juvenile justice setting with youth who are detained. We aren’t saying that they should be able to communicate with everybody. We are saying that they need to have monitored communications to maintain healthy connections, but we’ll leave that up to probation to determine for each youth.


NB: What’s the financial feasibility of this bill, and how is the state going to fund an increase in access to technology?

LC: We know that there are ways to do this cheaply. The technology is not that complicated. San Diego County’s juvenile hall is using Skype as a way for the young people who are detained to have online visits with their parents. It’s not expensive technology to access. A lot of the court schools have laptops already, but they’re only being used in limited ways and they’re not being used to maintain connections with family. They’re used in very limited educational ways, which isn’t good [use of the resource]. So in some cases they have the technology already in the building, they’re just not using it as they could be.


NB: What are some of the stories you’ve heard from youth that stress the importance of this bill?

LC: So some young people say, “I lived with a family where I had a lot of access and it really made a difference because I could seek online resources myself and I could think about registering at the community college and doing classes online.” And then you hear young people in group homes who said, “I had to sneak out to try to get to the library to find out what my homework assignment was because there was no Internet access at the group home.” Some of the group home facilities may have one computer, and the young people may or may not have very much access to it. It may be a couple of hours a day and if you’ve got a lot of youth in that facility that’s really not reasonable.

Categories: Blog

What It’s Like To Be Transracially Adopted Into A White Family

July 10, 2017 - 5:55pm
Heaven Bachand (left) and her mom, Marguerit Bachand(right) in an undated family photo. When Heaven was 6, she was adopted transracially. Photo courtesy of Heaven Bachand.

Growing up I was never proud of being black, because I was adopted into a white family.

I was six when I met my mom for the first time. I was at the Oakland Zoo at an event where people went to meet foster kids. I was eating a lot of pizza and I saw this tall, Caucasian woman. She walked up to me and offered to get me another slice. That would have been my sixth slice of pizza, but I didn’t care. I was excited. She stayed with me and talked for a while.

After the event, she started hanging out with me. We went to the park, her house, and talked. I would see her about once a week. A few months later, I moved in. Eventually, she adopted me.

Back then, I didn’t really care that my new mom was white. As I got older, though, race became more important

In middle school, I started noticing people treated me differently than my white family members. In 7th grade, I lived in a white neighborhood and people watched my every move. I knew people were thinking that I looked sketchy when in reality I am a nice person and care for people.

Whenever I would go places, people stared at me and my mom. I could tell by the way they looked at me they were trying to figure how we were related. Kids would just come up to me and ask, “Is your dad black or is that your mom?”

It was so awkward, one time a kid asked me, “Is that your mom?”and I told him, “No, that’s my babysitter.” I was embarrassed because I felt like they were asking, where are your real parents? And my real parents didn’t want me.

I never told my mom about these things, because I didn’t want her to feel bad. It wasn’t her fault. But as a white woman there are some things she can’t fully understand. I couldn’t explain to her how I never felt comfortable in family pictures because I was the only black person. When my mom would tell me to be safe and be nice to cops, I wondered if she would still say that if I were white. If I were white, would I have to worry about if I’m going to make it home at night or if a cop is going to approach me? Those kind of thoughts made me hate being black.

A lot changed when I eventually went to a school with other black kids. There, didn’t feel like I stuck out. I started dating somebody who related to everything I’ve gone through. She is also adopted. She is mixed black and white. She understands the struggles. Talking to her, I felt like I could finally open to someone.

Now, I love that I’m black. I love the history I learned in school and over social media. We had to fight to come this far, and I should love my skin and my background. I’m proud to be different. I am proud that I was born African American. And I feel like I can start to explain how I feel to my family.

I love my family, though they may never understand the black community and the Black Lives Matter movement the way I do. But, I am proud to talk about my history. And in time, I hope to help them understand where I come from.

Categories: Blog

Hope and Fear: Two California Teens On What A Sanctuary State Would Mean

July 7, 2017 - 6:26am

A bill that proposes to make California a “sanctuary state” is making its way through the state legislature.The bill would limit local governments from complying with federal immigration officials. For many undocumented California youth, it represents a chance to live without fear.  We asked youth from two different parts of the state to weigh in on California’s Senate Bill 54. Their stories are a collaboration between South Kern Sol and Youth Radio.

A Tale Of Two Cities

Living within a sanctuary: “I feel safe in my community”

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

My family emigrated from Mexico to California when I was two years old. Most of my life, I’ve lived in Hayward, which recently became a sanctuary city. Hayward joined a list of other Bay Area cities that have already declared themselves sanctuaries, which means it’s harder for the government to deport undocumented residents. When President 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.

Even before adding a sanctuary title, my city allowed me to thrive in school and be more active in my community. If there were more places like this, undocumented teens would feel a sense of belonging, despite our legal status.

– Paulina Ortega, 16


Living without a sanctuary: “Even going outside my house is scary”

I wish I could go to college, but I’m afraid. As an undocumented teenager in Lamont, California, in Kern County, even going outside my house is scary. I’m always worried about being sent back to a country that is not my home.

My parents brought me to the United States from Mexico when I was 11. All my life I’ve tried to be a good person. I have attended school since I arrived and I am a high school graduate. I’m constantly thinking of ways to better myself and find opportunities to become successful.

I’m currently working at a packaging company where my parents also work. We get up every day at 5 a.m. to get ready for the nine-hour workday. I usually work five days a week unless the machines break down. When that happens, it usually takes a few days to fix them.

Before President Trump was elected, I went to the movies with friends, out to eat and spent time at parks without being afraid. Right now, I don’t do anything but work and stay home.

If California were to become a sanctuary state, undocumented teens like myself could breathe a sigh of relief. It would mean that I could ride my bike without being scared of being detained and deported. I could go out without having to constantly look over my shoulder.

It would be life changing for my family and me. Instead of being stuck, I could plan for my future, just like most other responsible 19-year-olds.

-Luis, 19

Luis, 19, is a writer for South Kern Sol. He is protecting his family’s privacy by only using his first name. Paulina Ortega, 16, is a writer for Youth Radio. 

Categories: Blog

My Brother, The Southern Baptist

July 6, 2017 - 2:43pm

In my family, we are all atheists. But that changed recently when my brother went to college and found religion.

When my brother returned home from his first weeks at UC Berkeley, I was excited to hear about college. But when we sat down to eat, he closed his eyes, clasped his hands, and silently mouthed grace.

My jaw dropped in shock.

The first friends Cole made on campus belonged to a Southern Baptist church group, which is practically a 180 degree turn from atheism. Not long after, Cole converted.

When we learned about his conversion, we freaked out. Atheism is all we’ve ever known and been comfortable with. But my parents are trying to understand. They read those cheesy books about spirituality and even went to Easter church services. They want to understand this new part of his life. But it’s been hard for me to accept it.

I’m not really afraid of the religion itself. I can make peace with Cole studying the Bible and going to church.

But I’m afraid that his religion will pull him away from me. He now spends all his free time with his church friends–so much so that they feel culty and controlling. He refers to them as his “second family.” What if someday they become his only family? What if he replaces his real family with fellow believers? I want to hold onto the Cole of my childhood, the one that climbed trees and made puns with me, but maybe we’ll never have the same bond that he has with his church friends. I’m worried that our differences are too big to overcome.

Now I’m trying to step back and let him make his own decisions. I’m doing my best to remove his religion from the picture; he’s not Cole the Southern Baptist, he’s just Cole, my loving, funny, smart best friend. My connection to atheism may be strong, but he’s my brother, and I can’t just write him out of my life.

Categories: Blog