BEHIND THE SCENES with Sarah Levine of Curie Youth Radio

Why did you start Curie Youth Radio

Every English teacher searches for ways to make writing seem more relevant and "real world." In the past few years, educators are doing so much more with peer review and publishing; Curie Youth Radio is just another way for students to know that their stories -- and the way they tell them -- matter

This kind of class introduces a built-in audience of adults who already may not understand where teens are coming from. When they write for this audience (as opposed to for themselves or their friends), teenagers are forced to examine and explain their actions and ideas

Ultimately, radio is the perfect teacher. Writing for radio demands that students make every word count. Their imagery must be specific and strong. A youth producer needs to understand the emotional and thematic effects they want to create; this means that youth producers are doing critical analyses of their own writing. Each edit, each music selection, each fade, each silence, needs to serve the overall effects of their stories. It's delightful to watch high school juniors arguing over whether an editing choice is too cliched, or whether cutting the ending short will damage the overall impact of a piece

And what do you (they) think is the greatest benefit of the project

Here are some things my students wrote about the project

"The greatest part of being in Curie Youth Radio is that you can express yourself in ways you never thought you could. We get to tell the whole world our version of life. It's kind of exciting to know that people on the other side may not know you, but you can share your world with them." (Martin Macias, Elizabeth Pliego, Jessica Melendez, Keith Shine, Kimberley Espinosa, Christian Rangel) "I also find it amazingly fun to be able to see what different people think about questions that I think about all the time." (Taqueria Woods, Heather Branch

We're hearing a lot more youth work on NPR. Would you say there's a youth radio movement going on in the country? What impact is it having

I'm hearing a lot more, too. I remember being very excited to hear Youth Radio on NPR in 1998 and 1999. In just the last few years we've also been hearing from Appalachia, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. And if you look on the Public Radio Exchange (, you'll see at least 30 youth radio groups who have posted their work. And hearing from them does have an impact. My students call us -- the adult audience -- "the other side." We definitely need to hear their stories

I don't know what constitutes a movement, but I do know that each year, more places are recognizing that youth radio projects offer both a place for young people to mature AND great art. That's a nice confluence

What, in this day and age, still attracts young people to radio/audio

Here are some of my students' responses to this question

"Working with audio is still like every other media in that you can express yourself personally and artistically. However, in radio you can have your own space in the world of creativity. Unlike video, there is no face behind the voice. So, it encourages you to express yourself more because there is no pressure of people recognizing you by your face. When you can express yourself more as an artist . . . your work becomes better." (Julie Flores, Charles Garcia, Claudia Lopez) "What attracts us to audio is working with other people's imaginations. Working with audio allows us to paint a picture while still leaving room for interpretation. You just can't do that watching TV." (Diane Zaldua, Jeweline Hale, Phillip Baggett, Pui Chau, Nancy Marquez)