The Kids Are Alright – Vol. 6

Jessica Sutter, Chief of Civic Learning Initiatives

December 19, 2023

Jordan Williams spoke with Magic Johnson at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. (Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington/Washington Post)

Excerpt crossposted from The Kids Are Alright, an occasional Friday afternoon email newsletter written by Jessica Sutter featuring three stories of youth voice, youth leadership, and adult allies supporting youth efforts to change their communities — and our country — for the better.

Heard it on the radio

A few months ago, I read an article about a young man named Jordan Williams, a high school student at Bard Early College High School in Washington, DC who had, as a student journalist, interviewed new Commanders co-owner Magic Johnson & ended up with an offer to cover the cost of his college education. It was a wonderfully feel-good story, but it also made me curious about the program Jordan credits with training him as a reporter: the Deanwood Radio Broadcast Youth Journalism Program. Run by Salih Williams (aka, Go-Go artist Bootsy Vegas) out of the Deanwood Recreation Center, the program serves 40 students from Wards 7 & 8 in the District and trains them in research, communication, and interviewing skills as well as how to engage with the news media. The program was founded in 2016 and has already sent more than 20 students to college to major in communications or broadcast journalism. Last year, the program began partnering with the Congressional Award Foundation to create a multi-season, youth-led podcast and has continued to help its youth participants tell stories of their life in various media outlets. And as for Jordan, while he’s still working on his future plans in broadcasting, he is already running his own podcast on the daily lives of locals in DC called The Otherside TV. Check it out on Spotify.

Getting HS Students Curious about the Court

I was recently introduced to a young civic entrepreneur named Olivia Gross who, as a high school student herself, created an opportunity for her fellow high school students to engage in “agreeable disagreement.” Called The High School Law Review, her high school club is now a “curricular program and national competition that provides programming to young students centered on the value of agreeable disagreement through the study of constitutional law.” The program helps students build skills in active listening, sharp writing, and capacity as both a collaborative team member and a team leader. Olivia is currently finishing her fourth year at University of Chicago, where she framed her own major around the essential question, “How do we agreeably disagree?” She is currently planning ways to scale The High School Law Review to reach more young people across the country

Walking the Talk & Letting Students Authentically Lead

Including student voice is an increasingly common idea in educational settings. But “including” takes many different forms and some are more truly student-centered than others. When I saw that EL Education was not just inviting students to participate in its annual conference, but had actually recruited students as co-hosts, I was eager to learn more about how they structured that role. Students, both those who serve on the EL Student Advisory Council and those who attend EL schools were engaged in the process of both conference design and the conference itself. According to Jessica Wood, the EL Education Director of Experiential Marketing and Student Ambassador Liaison, “Students have joined strategy meetings, offered input on the event’s theme and custom branding, actively participated in workshops and discussions to shape the content and focus of keynote presentations, contributed to the selection of keynote speakers who align with EL Education’s values, and collaborated with educators and advisors to design inclusive and student-centered sessions that reflect the principles of experiential learning and Crew.” As it turns out, several of the conference co-hosts like Marissa Barnwell and Saniya Cunningham have already made their mark on EL Education as founders of the Student Advisory Council, student bloggers for the EL Education blog, and speakers at past EL Conferences.

“Just being treated like we matter. There (are) people there to listen to us, listen to our questions. Anything we need, they’re there to help. I think that’s what makes the program so special.”

– Jordan Williams, student journalist, on his experience with the Deanwood Radio Broadcast Youth Journalism Program

Read the full newsletter post here.

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