It’s the end of the semester, and its crunch time for the first class of Springfield high school students taking part in New England Public Radio’s new after school program, Media Lab. In just a few short weeks, these six students have written and voiced stories about their names, interviewed community members about important issues that our next president will face, talked to parents and teachers about what they are proud of, and now, they are wrapping up work on their final projects – a news feature on a topic of their choosing. For Jasmine Capeles, a sophomore at Springfield Conservatory of the Arts, it’s a piece titled “The NEPR Experience” which features interviews with her fellow Media Lab participants about the program. Elder Martinez, a freshman at Springfield’s High School of Commerce, will focus on the ever-present “smart phone addiction,” and its impact. Jasmine, Elder and the rest of the class will share their work at a graduation celebration on Tuesday, May 24 at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Led by NEPR’s programming director, John Voci, producer Tema Silk and three interns from UMass Amherst, Media Lab is an after school program for young people, ages 14 to 18. Through basic journalism and audio production, participants learn to tell stories with sound. The curriculum includes learning how to interview, writing for radio and producing commentaries and radio features. Fundamentally, it’s about providing opportunities to young people and encouraging their expression and exploration of issues that are important to them.
“When New England Public Radio relocated from the campus of UMass Amherst to downtown Springfield, we wanted to engage the community in a new way- particularly young people,” said John Voci. “Springfield and Holyoke are communities that have suffered a severe economic downturn over the past few decades and we hope that Media Lab can help some kids think about the future and to realize that their voices are valued.”
Media Lab intern Brian Bevilacqua, who studies Journalism and English at UMass Amherst, wishes that there was a program like this when he was in high school. “It’s needed because number one, we need more voices like this in the media, and on the radio, just for the sake of the media giving a fuller picture of what life is like in a place like Springfield. You just don’t hear voices from high school, from people coming from these backgrounds. And from an educational standpoint,” he continues, “you just don’t get the chance to do something like this in high school, so I think it’s great that a chance like this exists for these six kids.”
NEPR will offer a summer session of Media Lab beginning in July, and a fall semester class will begin in September. In January, students from Holyoke public schools will be able to participate in the program, along with Springfield students. For more information on the application process, visit http://digital.nepr.net/nepr-media-lab/
NEPR’s Media Lab is generously funded by Berkshire Bank Foundation, Inc., The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, Tom and Kit Dennis, Thomas and Marilyn Ewing, The Kittredge Foundation, TD Bank & TD Charitable Foundation, United Bank and two anonymous donors.
For the Press: Press is invited to attend NEPR’s Media Lab Graduation on Tuesday, May 24 at 4 p.m. at the Basketball Hall of Fame, 1000 Hall of Fame Avenue, Springfield, Mass. Please email Vanessa Cerillo at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend. Interview opportunities with John Voci who oversees the program, and others from NEPR are available.