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Youth broadcasting for a better community

Upper Arlington High School students are taught about Youth Beat. Credit: Courtesy of Kristi Lekies

Upper Arlington High School students are taught about Youth Beat. Credit: Courtesy of Kristi Lekies

An Ohio State-based radio show is helping provide a platform for the voices of local high school and college students.

Youth Beat Radio airs every Monday night at 7:30 p.m. on Columbus radio station WCRS, 102.1 and 98.3 FM. The show, which is sometimes hosted by high school and college students, focuses on the youth of Columbus in order to shed light on their involvement in the community and encourage future leadership.  

“I have yet to find another media platform that is based entirely on youth and what they are doing in the community and one that empowers them,” said Nishant Makhija, former executive producer of Youth Beat Radio.

Youth Beat Radio was developed in 2009 by Kristi Lekies, the show’s executive producer and an associate professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources. She said what began simply as her OSU outreach responsibilities is now a powerful platform for change. Lekies said that she sees too many negative images of youth in the world today.

“There are a lot of positive things that young people are doing, too, but they are not given the attention that they deserve,” Lekies said.

The show is run by Lekies and a small group of OSU undergraduates and recent graduates. They interview Columbus-area students, youth organizations, local organizations and politicians on topics such as college debt, safe COTA navigation, college preparation and local drug issues.   

Most importantly, Lekies said, they learn what youth are doing in the community, such as community cleanups, efforts to preserve small farms and waterway cleanup projects.   

Makhija, who is currently residing in New York City but still helps with the show, coordinated after-school programs with schools such as Upper Arlington and Linden-McKinley high schools.  

“We aim to teach kids how to tell stories and educate their peers in the community,” he said.

During these programs, Makhija would teach the students about radio writing, recording and editing. Students would also conduct interviews of their own, typically with influential people in their schools, and create content for Youth Beat.  

“Even if students don’t want to get involved with radio or broadcast after this, it still helps them connect to their community in a new way,” said Nicole Jackson, a 2011 OSU graduate with a degree in environmental education, who works with Youth Beat.

Jackson said Youth Beat gives young people confidence to communicate with their community, which she said is especially important when they are told they are better seen than heard.   

While Youth Beat mainly focuses on youth opinion and involvement, it also interviews individuals who are working on youth-oriented issues, such as Representatives Joyce Beatty and Steve Stivers. 

“Joyce and Steve talked about the way Congress works, but also how they are pushing for youth legislation and that they work on youth issues that concern young people daily,” Makhija said.  

Lekies said that she designed the show to appeal to all ages. While it is focused on youth, she said that she hopes it inspires people to not only appreciate young people more but to also get involved with the community. She said that so many youth are making positives changes in their communities, and it’s time for older generations to as well.  

“There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there about the state of the world, and this show makes me have a lot of hope that there are hard-working people out there looking to change the world in positive ways,” Lekies said.

The Engaged Scholars logo accompanies stories that feature and examine research and teaching partnerships formed between the Ohio State University and the community (local, state, national and global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources. These stories spring from a partnership with OSU’s Office of Outreach and Engagement. The Lantern retains sole editorial control over the selection, writing and editing of these stories.

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