Next Generation Center and the Radio Rookies

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radioImagine tackling issues having to do with homosexuality, incarceration, caring for an ill parent or wondering where your next meal is coming from…and being a teen. These and other moving stories of teenagers of The Children’s Aid Society’s Next Generation Center in the Bronx are where they broadcasted on WNYC radio October 5 th through 9th during the morning news which is also posted on the radio station’s website.

Radio Rookies is a program of WNYC radio that runs one to two workshops a year throughout New York City. The program trains teenagers on all aspects of radio, from how to use recording equipment to developing stories, conducting interviews, and editing digital audio.  At the completion of the workshop, the teens have created stories that not only show off their newly acquired journalism skills, but also allows them to open the doors for the world to get a glimpse of their lives, which is not always about iPods, gossip or the latest fashion.

“I heard it on NY Public Radio and loved it so I contacted the Senior Producer, Kaari Pitkin, and invited them to do it at NGC…a year later, they contacted us because they were looking for a Bronx site and we agreed!” said Lynne Echenberg, Director of the Next Generation Center.

In a brave segment called “Best Couple,” which won her the First Hillman Foundation Sidney Award in June for socially conscious journalism, Rookie Reporter Victoria “Vikky” Cruz, a Next Generation Center participant, reports on how she and her girlfriend became the first same-sex couple to win “Best Couple” for their high school yearbook all the while keeping her sexuality a secret from her judgmental grandmother. “Not only was Vikky Cruz brave enough to tackle teenage homosexuality on public radio, she also took it on in a far more intimidating environment—high school…her commitment to honesty and justice in both of these settings earned her The Sidney,” said Charles Kaiser, Sidney Award Judge. Vikky also shared with us her journey of learning to live and cope with her mother’s physically and mentally debilitating disease Neuroacanthocytosis in her story called “My Mother’s Disease.”

If they didn’t before, these teens now know they have a voice worth listening to and stories worth sharing.