Nonprofit helps youths find their voice
December 29, 2011
“Being a teenager can be rough,” said Stacy Stein, director of the Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program (AZYEP). “I see them come into this program kind of shy but when they leave, they feel like they have a voice.”
Such is the power of youth radio.
AZYEP has been on the air at KDNK, Carbondale’s community radio station, for 11 years. Annemarie Zanca started the program as a tribute to her late brother, who was once the youngest DJ in Colorado.
“I named the program after Andy,” she explained, “because radio was so empowering for him.”
Andy Zanca started hosting a show at age 10, with all kinds of music and occasional reviews of the weekly Roaring Fork Middle School hot lunch menu. At KDNK, he discovered things about himself that he didn’t find school or at home.
“He was a troubled, at-risk kid,” said his sister. “But, KDNK embraced him.”
He had a love of music and the ability to ham it up in front of a microphone. His technical skills were so good that other volunteer DJs would often come to him for advice.
Andy had been a DJ for 12 years when he took his own life in 1998 at age 21. Annemarie started AZYEP shortly thereafter. She was looking for something different to do and KDNK wanted youth radio.
In the wake of her brother’s death, Annemarie wanted to give young people a way to be heard and a sense of belonging. The program was not specifically designed for at-risk kids, but Annemarie, a longtime youth counselor, knew that suicide is often the result of feeling disconnected. The community radio station seemed like a good fit.
“KDNK is a hub of connection,” she said.
Annemarie got AZYEP off the ground, then turned it over to Beth Hervey. She and Carbondale resident Felicia Trevor introduced bilingual programming and a Thursday night Spanish-language show hosted by the students.
Eleven years later, over 700 Roaring Fork Valley students between the ages of 9 and 21 have taken to the airwaves at KDNK.
Stein took over the program in 2007 after hosting her own music show for three years.
“My show on KDNK was the beginning of feeling good about myself,” she remembered.
AZYEP now offers three more regular shows, a weekly broadcasting class at KDNK during the school year (including a public affairs show written and produced by the students), and partners with local schools.
Past shows have featured half-hour segments about energy, war, the death penalty and health care, produced by students from the Aspen-based civics education program, Tomorrow’s Voices.
Glenwood Springs High School students also participate.
“Kids from Laura Hardman’s [journalism] class write an essay called This I Believe,” said Stein. After Hardman’s class selects the top 10 essays, AZYEP records the winners reading their essays and broadcasts them.
“It really raised the bar for that assignment,” replied Stein. “The students take it more seriously and parents request copies of the recordings.” A new set of winning essays will air in February 2012.
Some AZYEP students, such as Sophia Clark of Basalt, have pursued journalism careers. Clark studies journalism at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and was a news intern at KDNK in 2010.
But everyday successes, such as self-confidence both on the air and in school, are equally as important. Stein said radio time gives teens structure, enhances leadership skills, and above all, people listen.
“This may be the first time anyone in the community has listened to what kids have to say.”
Annemarie Zanca added that AZYEP wouldn’t exist without a funky station like KDNK.
The program shares the station’s studios and office space, but AZYEP is a separate organization, relying on donations, underwriting and local government grants.
Stein wants to expand the program to grades 3 through 8, and she’d like to see AZYEP graduates teach the weekly class or produce news for KDNK.
“I’d love to offer employment to do that,” she said.
Youth Radio airs 2-3 p.m. Sundays, 2:30-4:30 p.m. Mondays, 7-9 p.m. Thursdays, and 4-4:30 p.m. on alternating Wednesdays. KDNK is at 88.1 FM in Carbondale and at 88.3 FM in Glenwood Springs.
For the latest AZYEP class project – a look at water in the West – check out http://www.kdnk.org.