Temple Times Online Edition
    November 20, 2006
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Student lends an ear at local Latino radio station

Youth Radio Project
Renita Burns (left) guides two high-school teens through the process of uploading audio onto a Web site run by a Latino radio station in North Philadelphia. In addition to being a full-time student, Burns also volunteers her expertise at an after-school program, teaching teenagers how to succeed in media professions.
(Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg / University Photography)

As a junior political science major and political economy minor, Renita Burns has a lot on her plate right now. Macroeconomic formulas, the philosophical writings of John Locke and applications for journalism internships flood her desk, but with 24 hours in a day, she believes there’s always time to do something good.

In addition to all her academic responsibilities, Burns is one of many Temple students who are making time to get involved with organizations in the neighborhood. Through her affiliation with New City Writing: Institute for the Study of Literature, Literacy and Culture, a center directed by associate professor Eli Goldblatt in the English department, Burns spends four hours of her week helping young people air their community concerns.

The Youth Radio Project is an after-school program dedicated to helping teens learn how to produce digital stories and format radio segments. The radio show is part of a broader organization called the Open Borders Project, a community-based organization that is committed to educating families and individuals in North Philadelphia.

According to OBP director Manuel Portillo, the goal of the after-school program is to integrate youth voices into the organization, offering a unique opportunity where students from local area high schools can meet, share ideas and develop a forum of their own.

The teens have explored a variety of issues that they believe are important to their North Philadelphia neighborhood, such as finding out why kids don’t participate in after-school activities and discovering what anti-crime organizations are doing to stop the increased violence throughout the city.

Burns had heard about the Youth Radio Project last spring and promised Goldblatt that she would help out anywhere he needed her – as long as there were kids involved.

Knowing Burns wants to pursue a career in journalism, Goldblatt thought the radio station would be a perfect fit for Burns.

“I really wanted to take advantage of my time here at Temple by getting involved with the community,” the Bridgeport, Conn., native said. “Working for this program has been a learning experience for me. Not only am I working with kids in the area, but I also get to learn how to use the equipment just like everyone else in the class.”

To get comfortable using the air waves to get their message out, the project first focused on teaching the teenagers how to identify and write about the issues they see in their communities. Burns said the youth played a large role in developing and designing the course. The two-hour meetings, held twice a week, cover a variety of topics including writing effectively, conducting interviews, recording dialogue, editing and formatting audio on the computer.

Once the teens have a grasp for the elements of journalism, Burns allows them to leave the classroom to interview sources with expertise in the issue they’re reporting on. When the students return with audio, they edit the interview and make it available for the world to hear on their Web site.

“Most of the kids in this program don’t get to use the kind of software they are learning about here,” Burns said. “A lot of these kids are at-risk students, but all they need is a few people to believe in them and guide them to bigger and better things.”

By Karen Shuey

For the Temple Times

Ways to get involved
Undergraduate and graduate students who want to make a difference in North Philadelphia’s neighborhoods have dozens of ways to get involved through Temple’s New City Writing: Institute for the Study of Literature, Literacy and Culture. Some projects include the Community Arts Program, which works in partnership with community organizations, schools and artists in North Philadelphia to develop after-school arts workshops; the Young Author Program, which hosts workshops for elementary school children at children’s bookstores in the area; and the Open Doors Project, a cooperative effort with three adult-education centers to help neighbors successfully transition into college courses.

To learn more, contact Eli Goldblatt at eligold@temple.edu.





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