With a new administration set to make the move to City Hall, the young hosts were eager to pass on their “to-do” list to the next mayor.
This story is from a reporting collaboration between WHYY and WURD 900 AM.
On Wednesday nights at 7, Philadelphia’s talk radio station WURD 900 AM turns over the airwaves to teenagers. For an hour, the outspoken young hosts of “Youth WURDS” talk about everything from bullying and drug abuse to popular entertainment and politics. With a new administration set to make the move to City Hall, the young hosts were eager to pass on their “to-do” list to the next mayor.
In a conference room across from the broadcast booth at WURD, 15-year-old Tamir Harper, 16-year-old Olivia Haynes and 15-year-old Morgan Bacon are hashing out topics for the live radio show they’ll do in about an hour.
These teens are part of a revolving series of high school-age hosts on “Youth WURDS.” The live, call-in show gives young people a chance to discuss their views on local and national issues. The show was funded by a grant from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a unique violence-prevention initiative – providing teens with a platform to talk to other young people and to adults.
The students look over a stack of printouts from online news sites about the police officer in South Carolina who threw a female student out of her desk and onto the floor when she refused to put down her cell phone.
The television comedy, “Fresh Off the Boat,” about an Asian American family in the 1980s that centers on Eddie, the hip-hop loving oldest son, is also a possible topic for discussion.
Stephanie Renee, WURD’s program director, is the adult mentor and executive producer for “Youth WURDS.” She also hosts her own talk show, “The Mojo.” Renee steps in to help keep the group focused – not necessarily an easy task with teenagers.
Renee encourages the group to decide what topics they want to discuss for each segment of the hourlong program.
“As we start tonight’s program we will be discussing what?”
Olivia Haynes replies. “What it’s like to be a student of color in the classroom cause we are all coming from different schools and our experiences are different,” says Haynes.
This is the second season of “Youth WURDS.” Renee says that the show is a way to give young people a voice in their community.
“The idea is the more opportunities we give our young people to get together, to know one another and to express things that they love and dislike about their experiences, there will be less need for confrontation on the streets and for the statistics to be as troubling as they are.”
Even though it’s not a topic for tonight, talk strays to the upcoming city elections and the students’ to-do list for the next mayor.
Morgan Bacon wants services for homeless youth. “I hope that [the next administration] will get students off the streets and into safer communities”, says Haynes.
Olivia Haynes hopes more funding will go to enriching afterschool activities that are not just about studying, but also about enhancing creativity.
Tamir Harper, who says he hopes to run for mayor of Philadelphia himself one day, stressed that violence is an important issue in the city. “I hope the soon-to-be mayor will look at ways to lower youth violence”.
Harper also had one important mission he hoped the new mayor would take on. “Engage the youth”, was his key suggestion.
The other hosts agreed.
“All of us sitting on this couch right now can’t vote,” said Bacon. “But in the next election, we’ll be making those decisions for the next president or the next mayor or city council member.”
The hosts of “Youth WURDS” know the power of their voices. City Hall should probably take note.