Lilliana Frantz, a member of Blunt Youth Radio in Portland, works the board for a 2019 show. A new initiative will give students a six-week crash course on radio broadcasting as they examine climate and environmental issues Contributed / Caroline Hadilaksono

PORTLAND — Teens from all over southern Maine converged at City Hall throughout 2019 for Youth Climate Strikes to urge policymakers to curb climate change. While the pandemic has prevented large gatherings, a new initiative from WMPG’s Blunt Youth Radio gives high school students a chance to delve into environmental issues and make their voices heard through radio journalism.

Between now and mid-March, eight high school students will get a crash course on radio broadcasting and will focus on producing environmental and climate-related pieces that will be included in future Blunt Youth Radio shows.

“What is great about the issue of climate is that there has been a lot of youth-motivated action,” said Alice Anderson, Southern Maine Community Radio’s new youth program coordinator.

WMPG’s award-winning, student-run Blunt Youth Radio since 1994 has provided high school students an opportunity to weigh in on subjects important to them. The weekly Tuesday night call-in show has tackled topics ranging from student rights to veganism. More recently it focused on the impacts of the pandemic on student learning. All topics are proposed and voted on by the students.

The six-week environmental program is part of a “complete redesign” of Blunt Youth Radio to produce new content in a safe way. Other WMPG show producers have been able to work from home during the pandemic, but Blunt Youth radio couldn’t easily do that because of the call-in format and the communal nature of producing each show, said WMPG Development Director Dale Robin Goodman. A small group of students have continued to produce shorter pieces, but much of Blunt Youth Radio’s programming over the last year has been rebroadcasts of old shows.

“Going forward, we don’t know when we will be able to get people back in here, so we are really glad there will be this new design,” Goodman said.

The goal over the last 25 years, Goodman and Anderson said, has not been to train the next generation of radio professionals, but rather give students an outlet to have their voices heard.

“Youth activism can be at the whim of the adult media to translate what they are saying,” Anderson said. “Something like this they can have greater emphasis and more control over the message they are trying to spread.”

With the special six-week program, the hope is for students’ work to be featured on Blunt Youth Radio as they learn how to produce a radio program and connect with environmental professionals, such as those from the Nature Conservancy, a sponsor of the tutorial.

Casco Bay High School senior Lilliana Frantz, who has been a member of Blunt Youth Radio since 2017, said the program allows her to educate herself and others on topics that may not be well known.

“I am able to collaborate with other members, and I have the freedom to host shows on topics that are meaningful to me,” Frantz said. “Blunt allows me to build connections with people who have the same passion for radio as me and fosters creativity to think beyond the box.”

Frantz said COVID-19’s impact will be the topic of future shows, and “I would like to cover more topics relating to the racial disparities in schools and youth civic engagement.”

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