Students of Violence: a series of first person essays that explore the role of violence in young people’s lives. Audio by Luis Lopez, Shayla Torres, Cristel Martinez, and Thien To with Philly Youth Radio.

In 2010, I received an Art and Change grant from the Leeway Foundation to create a radio documentary about the 2009 violent attacks on Asian immigrant students at South Philadelphia High School. This was at the very beginning of my radio career – before I’d ever even been commissioned to make a radio story. And as I conducted interviews with victims and community leaders, I realized I was in over my head. I began having queasy questions, like: was I really equipped to do this story justice? And also: wouldn’t it just make more sense for the students to report their own stories? After much soul-searching and research, I created Philly Youth Radio with the goal of promoting intercultural, intergenerational dialogue, as well as better understanding about young people’s lives and contributions in Philadelphia. For three years, I worked closely with young people of color to create stories about their lives and communities. Through intensive radio production workshops (and with the help of many talented, generous volunteers), I taught students how to gather sound, conduct interviews, write scripts, track narration, and edit audio. Our stories eventually aired on radio stations across the U.S. – we were even able to get our public radio station to present locally-produced youth radio for the first time! Philly Youth Radio changed me, by building my skills and confidence as a radio producer and making clear the importance of making work so excellent that the media gatekeepers can’t say no.

Philly Youth Radio has had three seasons.