By Jacqueline Stefanak
What happens when you wake up teenagers early on a Saturday morning and bring them together to create something new? An awesome podcast! The Youth Podcast Club began last spring at CoveCare Center to provide adolescents with behavioral health challenges the opportunity to engage in in-depth explorations of topics relevant to the challenges that they face, and to create and share their work. Led by Brandon Lillard, CoveCare Center’s Coordinated Children’s Services Initiative (CCSI) Team Coordinator, the group has been meeting since May 2018 and recently released their first episode, with many more to follow. All of the participants are involved with CCSI, a program that helps identify and coordinate services for families in need in Putnam County, and the Youth Podcast Club is bringing them, and the community, together.
Why a podcast club? Podcast creation and development is a great way for adolescents to come together, collaborate, and be heard. The club gives the participants, currently aged 12-17, an opportunity to meet new people, express themselves, and develop social and leadership skills. Brandon, an experienced podcaster, explains that a podcast is “audio on demand,” similar to video on demand. It is content that you can listen to wherever and whenever you want to, at your leisure. It is part radio, part talk show, and a lot of fun. Brandon has long experienced what he considers the therapeutic benefits of his hobby – spending time with old and new friends, sharing ideas and opinions, and knowing that others are listening to and enjoying your work. “For me, creating podcasts has been a very therapeutic way to connect with my friends while sharing ideas; it is an outlet. And the reward is creating something original that other people want to hear. I realized that a podcast club could be a great way to engage teens and reach them in a new way.”
The goals of the Youth Podcast Club are to empower young people who are facing social, emotional, and/or behavioral challenges; to help them recognize their issues and concerns and express them constructively; to provide a real, tangible accomplishment; and to develop meaningful social and life skills that can be applied to career paths. Thanks to PCSB Bank’s Community Foundation and the Lake Mahopac Rotary Club, who funded the project, this group of teenagers have been able to meet these goals. They came together, shared ideas, created an identity and logo for their podcast—the Million Volt League: Kids with Power–and have successfully released the first of many episodes. According to Brandon, “They show up early, and get it done.”
Each participant is encouraged to develop his/her own unique perspective, and the professionals who work alongside them, including Brandon and Gary Edelstein, LCSW-R, a mental health professional, help to bring their thoughts and creativity to life. Some of the topics chosen include resiliency and anxiety, and examining how characters in popular culture may have similar mental health struggles and experiences. For example, one of the Million Volt League podcasts focuses on Star Wars characters and relates their stories to the participants’ experiences.
The Youth Podcast Club has empowered young people who are facing social, emotional, environmental and/or behavioral issues to succeed. It has helped them to recognize their issues and concerns and express them in a constructive manner, and share their stories in a meaningful way. Participation has provided a sense of real, tangible accomplishment that has generated pride, self-respect and an increased sense of self-worth.
The podcast club gives teens a platform to speak about what matters to them, learn skills, laugh, and meet new people. One of the teens commented, “The club is about having fun with people you haven’t met before. You get to know them, talk, and become friends.” If you are ready to hear some great thoughts from some interesting teens, it just takes one click – so take a listen!