Saturday Light Brigade Radio Series: Amplifying Youth Voices

By Stephanie Wang – 11th Grade, Peters Township High School

Politician Gordon Smith once said, “A lot of things people see as innovative are faddish and fleeting, and I’m simply telling you, staying power like broadcasting has is more important in the end than the latest app you can download.”

The importance of radio broadcasting soon became apparent to me, when I attended the Saturday Light Brigade Radio Series on July 21, as part of The Carnegie Library Labs summer program. This four-part workshop for students from grades 6-12 is held at the Allegheny location of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh throughout the month of July.

To start off the session, instructor Tad Wissel from Saturday Light Brigade opened with the words, “We want to amplify teen voices.” The goal of the Saturday Light Brigade Radio Series is to teach students how to record and edit their own radio programs. Says Tad, “I think that using audio as a medium is a great opportunity.  It’s a cheap, fast way for kids to express themselves, and if we can teach them how to record and ask questions to get some interesting answers, then it’s a win.”

Last week, students had the opportunity to interview Cameron Brown, a North Side resident who just graduated from Carlow University, about his thoughts on the North Side. Cameron answered questions about what he liked  and what he didn’t like about the North Side. This week, their goal was to ask each other questions about the North Side, but first, they went practiced audio recording.

During today’s session, students learned how to hold a microphone, ask the right questions, and conduct an interview. They started with some scratch, or practice, recordings. Students practiced audio recording by saying their name, age, where they’re from, how people would describe them, and a few things about them into a microphone. When they listened back to their own recordings, a majority of the participants, like 12-year old Michael, found their own voices “odd” because they’ve never heard a recording of their own voice. Afterwards, they recorded their own story on whether or not they thought aliens were real and why, and then thoroughly debated the topic. Hearing kids of all ages form cohesive arguments from two different viewpoints was simply “out of this world!”

Later, they asked each other questions on their thoughts on the North Side– from their favorite part about it to something they wish they could change about the area. Ziana, a 17-year-old, talked all about her favorite spots, from the library to the aviary.

Besides providing a comfortable environment, the participants learn basic skills about audio recording that translate into earning digital badges from Pittsburgh City of Learning. For attending this series, students earn two badges: the Audio Recorder Badge and the Shelving Superstar Badge. Tad only had words of praise for the City of Learning Badges:“The City of Learning badges are a great idea, and if it helps to keep kids engaged or gives kids more opportunities, I think it’s great.”

Tad also emphasized the importance of learning throughout the summer, and believes that this program is a great way to keep minds sharp. But more importantly, the Saturday Light Brigade Radio Series is a great way to amplify youth voices of all ages and provide a multitude of different perspectives.  From what I’ve seen today, this series provides a powerful platform for Pittsburgh youth.

Stephanie Wang 2Stephanie Wang, a rising junior at Peters Township High School, is an avid writer and food enthusiast. Her past writing has been featured on The Almanac’s Youth Page, and she is currently the editor of Business Funnel.

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