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Guest Post: Dayton Youth Radio Project

In 2011 WYSO Public Radio began training members of our community in southwest Ohio to make radio stories. We call the program Community Voices. The idea is to get more diverse local voices onto the airwaves and to empower people to tell their stories. Our Dayton Youth Radio Project is one of many off-shoots of Community Voices and focuses on bringing journalism and broadcasting skills, like those used in WYSO’s daily operations, to area high school students, teaching everything from interviewing techniques to digital audio editing. 

The Ohio Arts Council made the lead gift to launch this program, which leveraged local funds from the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation and the Dayton Foundation. We conducted our first training sessions in September 2014 at Ponitz Career Technology Center, which is one of several Dayton public high schools. Award-winning Community Voices producer and funk music host Basim Blunt taught sixteen students in the school's Media Arts Radio Division how to produce feature stories for radio.

"Working with our friends at WYSO to launch the Dayton Youth Radio Project has been a terrific and meaningful experience for our students,” said Joanne Viskup, radio instructor at Ponitz Career Technology Center. “It's been a journey of growth and discovery for us all. I couldn't be prouder of these students and their accomplishments.

 The Ponitz students chose to explore timely topics, giving their perspectives on the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement, opportunities for minorities in the media, and sneakers as a status symbol. Those stories, and all subsequent Dayton Youth Radio Project stories, aired on WYSO 91.3FM during Morning Edition as part of the station’s local feature news segments as well as on WYSO Weekend, the station’s weekly news magazine. After airing they were all archived on the station’s website, where they continue to be heard.

“The response from our listeners has been thrilling - everyone loves hearing these stories,” said Luke Dennis, WYSO’s development director. “Not only are they impressed at the digital storytelling abilities of these students, they also find it fascinating to walk in the shoes of 17-year-olds from urban Dayton. Public radio takes listeners on journeys, but often the voices are from communities other than our own. The Dayton Youth Radio Project has opened up a world to our listeners that is right under their noses.”

In the winter of 2015, WYSO expanded our Youth Radio curriculum to the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) and the Dayton Regional STEM school. DECA student Omari Gaskins chose to produce a story about the African-American experience, including experiences he and his family have had with racism, saying, “When is this country going to see me as a human being? As long as there is hate taught in the home, racism will still be a problem.”

"Omari called producing the story “an amazing experience. As a teenager, this was a chance to have my voice heard. It brought out a confidence in me that I didn’t know I had.”

Other DECA students reported on food and culture as it relates to Ramadan, how society views blended families, and, in a story that got lots of attention on social media, navigating differing views on feminism with your parents. 

The students at the Dayton Regional STEM School took a different approach to the stories they produced with their training. Each of the STEM students chose a non-profit organization that supports a cause they’re passionate about and created a public service announcement (PSA) for that group. WYSO listeners got to hear both the students’ finished PSA’s and their reflections on why they chose to focus on a particular group or issue. 

This fall, WYSO returned to Ponitz Career Technology Center to work with a new group of youth radio producers and will be working with several other Dayton-area high schools in the winter of 2016. All Dayton Youth Radio Project stories are available on the WYSO website

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Juliet Fromholt, WYSO Public Radio

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