Students Around The U.S. Open Up About Their Lives In NPR Podcast Challenge

May 14, 2019
Originally published on May 14, 2019 6:25 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Six months ago, NPR's education team challenged teachers around the country - turn your classrooms into studios and your students into podcasters.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

More than 25,000 students from all 50 states participated in our first-ever NPR Student Podcast Challenge. And tomorrow on this program, we're going to hear from one of our two winners.

SHAPIRO: With so many podcasts - nearly 6,000 - it was hard for our judges to pick just two winners. So today, we're going to hear some of the other young people who opened up about their lives in their own distinct voices.

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WILL MEARS: My name is Will. I'll be your host for today, and I am autistic.

CORNISH: Will Mears is a ninth-grader at Franklin County High School in Brookville, Ind.

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WILL: Social situations are nightmares. I get nervous. I overanalyze everything. I'll start stimming, which is like rocking or fidgeting or pacing, et cetera. It's generally a mess. I've gotten a lot better over the years, but if you see me, you'll notice the difference between me and most people.

SHAPIRO: Many student podcasters reported on what it's like to be a young person in places like Morehead, Ky.

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UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #1: Hanging out in the Walmart parking lot has become a rite of passage for a certain tight-knit group of high school boys.

SHAPIRO: This podcast is from 11th-graders at Rowan County Senior High School.

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UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #2: Some people earn special nicknames - just, like, Catfish, Skeeter, Rooster, Big W, Cowboy, Marlboro and Bubbles.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #1: So Kaleb, what do you do at the Walmart parking lot?

KALEB: I mean, we pretty much just sit around and talk about trucks and talk about working on stuff.

CORNISH: We also heard from Robert G. Cole High School in San Antonio.

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GARRET BERNARD: My name is Garret Bernard, and I've grown up as a military kid. My dad was in the Army for 20 years...

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Oorah.

GARRET: ...And I followed him around the world while he serves - higher student bodies composed of military brats.

SHAPIRO: Inti Rios, a freshman at Thaden School in Bentonville, Ark., interviewed students across her state about their immigrant journeys.

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UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #3: I crossed the border by walking. It took me around a month to get here. For me, it was very surprising 'cause I had never been through anything like that before. I was only 13.

CORNISH: And we heard from students at Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center School in Milwaukee.

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UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #4: Although we in juvenile detention, we're still good kids, you know? We just made a mistake.

CORNISH: These young people wanted to use their podcast to send a message.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #4: Try to take our mistakes and our stories, and just try to use them, you know? It's another kid out there right now that's going through the same stuff that we have been through and that's going to end up in the same shoes that we in.

SHAPIRO: Tomorrow, the winning high school podcast from East Tennessee about an elephant, a circus and a small town's battle to clear its name from the bizarre thing that happened there a hundred years ago. I want to listen to that.

CORNISH: I know. That sounds incredible. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.