Teen Sanctuaries: a series of audio slideshows that explore the hidden safe places we all have – or at least should. Audio by Shayla Torres, Nyseem Smith, Thien To, and Cavhanah Baht T’om with Philly Youth Radio. Photos by Bas Slabbers, Brad Larrison, and Kimberly Paynter respectively.

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.