PhillyCAM has always been attentive to giving voices to minorities via public access radio and television, but Vanessa Graber and others from the team realized one of the biggest demographics was underrepresented on radio altogether – youth.
“Especially as we see so many youth-led movements now, like the climate crisis movement and the movement to end school shootings, we really believed it was important to carve out a space on our radio station so they could be heard,” said Graber, WPPM radio station manager.
So it was fitting that the team of teenagers, including five high school and college students from the Northeast, created the title Hear Us Out for their radio show. The one-hour show that runs every Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m. features interviews that give underrepresented voices a chance to voice their opinions.
Dylan Tu and Stephen Friel, rising seniors at Franklin Towne Charter High School, helped originate the program in the spring as part of PhillyCAM’s Youth Media Program. Tu is interested in being a photographer and Friel wants to be a director, so they seized the opportunity to get real world experience.
“The whole goal is to show youth have a voice when it comes to serious topics,” Friel said.
This summer they became part of a team of about a dozen youth working on the show, alongside Shane McBride, also a rising senior at Franklin Towne Charter; Samantha Covone, a rising junior at Swenson Arts and Technology High School; and Jade Lewis-McFall, a Northeast High School graduate who is studying mass media at Community College of Philadelphia. Each member of the team has a skill they bring to the production.
“As a youth I feel like we’re the largest group that’s oppressed, because it’s all races, all genders, all sexualities,” Tu said. “Everybody has been a youth before, so it’s just a broader term to get everybody to band together.”
The team brings in people they know to interview, such as a 13-year-old entrepreneur with his own clothing line SPERGO, and the Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project, a group organized to end incarcerating young people as adults.
“Before this, I always wanted a way to express myself and talk about my opinions on topics such as women’s rights, and now I feel like I do have a platform,” Covone said. Covone is interested in graphic design and writing, and said contributing to the show has hugely boosted her confidence.
The work keeps them busy – they have two weeks to find an interview topic, conduct interviews and gather footage on the street, and edit it all together before it’s ready to hit the air. Topics they want to cover in the future include privilege and women’s rights.
“There are people who aren’t mature enough to hear it yet, but there are certain angles from everybody that has privilege and doesn’t have privilege, and I just want to have an interesting conversation,” Tu said.
It also opened doors to a potential career in radio for McBride and Lewis-McFall, who are considering careers in the field after being exposed to the workings of the radio medium.
“I want to hear my voice and my opinion,” said McBride, who is also a graffiti artist. He also uses his art to express how he feels in the moment, and helped create the show’s logo with his graffiti.
Graber and others at PhillyCAM realized radio was more popular with older listeners not just because of changing technology, but also because there were no youth voices talking about youth topics. The youth program has created more than 3,000 hours of youth activities since it started in 2015.
With summer concluding, this group aired its last show last week and a new cohort will take over the show for the fall.
“I never considered a career in radio, but this summer was so much fun and showed me it can be a career for me,” Lewis-McFall said.
Follow them on Instagram @HearUsOutWPPM and listen to episodes at soundcloud.com/phillycam.