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KDNK, trip open up opportunities for teens with something to say

A group of local teens is so excited, they’re talking on air.

One afternoon a week, teens get the chance to speak out on KDNK public radio about what’s important to them. The show, called “Identity Crisis Youth Radio,” airs from 4:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays.

Eight of the roughly 15 students who help produce the show recently attended the annual conference of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters in Charlottesville, Va. The group represented five high schools in the Roaring Fork Valley.



Students included Katy Curry of Bridges High School, Teal Hoffmann and Emma Bosna of Yampah High School, Jennifer Stroud and Crystal Brown of Basalt High School, and Jeremiah Payne, Aaron Fry and Louis Metzger of Glenwood Springs High School.

Annemarie Zanca, a former school counselor, and Bryan Koster, an English teacher from Basalt High School, accompanied them.



The trip was partially funded by the five high schools, KDNK, the NCFB, and the Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program, a local nonprofit dedicated to empowering youth in the media and the arts.

Zanca founded the organization in 2001 in memory of her brother, a former Roaring Fork High School graduate and KDNK disc jockey. At age 9, Andy Zanca became one of the youngest DJs in KDNK history, Annemarie Zanca said. Sadly, he committed suicide in 1998 at the age of 21.

KDNK provided her brother with some wonderful opportunities, she said.

“What we’re trying to do is provide opportunities for these kids that they might not otherwise have,” Zanca said.

Students are encouraged to come up with their own topics and to produce their own shows. This trip, said Zanca, helped show them what youth radio is about and why it’s so important.

One of the trip highlights, said Zanca, was a tour of the mother of public radio stations, National Public Radio, in Washington, D.C.

“It was so inspirational, for them and for me,” said Zanca. “The history of NPR is so much like KDNK,” in that a small group of people got together and worked hard to create something they believed in.

Students also attended an all-day youth radio workshop for students from around the country and heard samples of what those students produce.

At the University of Virginia, home of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, students got to experience an array of high-tech toys, including computer animation, one of the country’s most powerful satellite radio links, and some amazing sound booths.

“Their eyes were popping out of their heads just to see how much was there,” said Zanca.

At the workshop, they met Mary Suma, KDNK’s general manager. Suma said the workshop was outstanding and gave the kids a chance to see “the other wonderful things that are happening in radio.”

Students also toured the Holocaust U.S. Memorial Museum, took an evening stroll past the White House, and visited Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

They absorbed some history, said Zanca, and got a good lesson in the birth of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

The final leg of the tour turned out to be one of the most exciting, said Zanca. Rather than go sightseeing, students opted to visit XM Satellite Radio, in Washington, D.C. More than 100 channels broadcast via satellite from the XM site.

“It was like James Bond. It was the future,” said Zanca.

One of the producers invited the students to do a live broadcast. They stayed on the air for four hours, said Zanca.

They talked about teen interests, like movies, websites, sex and dating, said Zanca. Two boys from GSHS noted that they missed their prom, being held that day, to go on the trip.

When the producer invited them to phone friends before the prom, they called two girls who were getting dressed up and asked them, over the air, how things were going.

Koster found the trip particularly educational since he teaches a broadcast journalism class at Basalt High School.

“It was great for me as a teacher,” said Koster.

This is the first year the course was offered, and it’s quite popular, said Koster. To prepare for it, Basalt High School built a production/media room. Koster said the facility allows students to “do everything but broadcast live radio.”

While it’s an elective, the course also touches on several of the state’s and district’s English standards, said Koster.

The course is divided into class time and studio time. Instruction includes writing, editing and adapting text to fit the radio format. Students have produced at least two programs in the studio that have aired on “Identity Crisis.”

Koster said one of his objectives for the course is to get students to visit KDNK on their own time.

Koster believes that some of the students in his class and who took the trip will pursue careers in broadcasting. “`Work hard and you’ll succeed.’ That was the message that they kept getting,” said Koster. “They got a taste of real-world radio.”

“We have so many vocal youths here that need a voice,” Suma said. She was quick to credit the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for helping to support youth radio. “They are powerful in getting another generation of people on the air,” she said.

Suma will interview some of the delegates from the trip on this week’s “Identity Crisis,” which will air from 4:30-5 p.m. Wednesday, April 24.


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