“You are never too young and never put yourself down like that. You don’t know what you are capable of until you do it.”
This year, journalism students at Dalton Middle School completed a project where they participated in NPR's Middle School Podcast Competition. With the help of their teacher, Amanda Triplett, Ellis Stephens and Andrea Marsh entered NPR's Middle School Podcast Competition where they placed in the top 12 in the nation for best middle school podcasts.
In order to make their podcasts, students were first required to choose a topic. When asked why they picked their topic, both Stephens and Marsh said they felt very connected to the topic they choose.
"I came up with my topic just sitting here with Mrs. Triplett." said Marsh. "She asked, 'What do you want your podcast to be about?' and the first thing I thought of is what is something that relates to me and my life and how it is being Black in America. It was instant for me."
Ellis Stephens's podcast, "The Perfect Age," explores the type of discrimination held against certain ages. Stephens set out to answer one question: What is the perfect age? Stephens said this is a very personal topic for him, as he too has experienced age discrimination.
"I wanted to attend a short film camp in Atlanta that requires an interview to attend," Stephens said. "The age ranges of this camp go from 12-17, but after I told the interviewer I was 12, he said, 'You know, your right at the age range, but it probably won't be good. There are other camps that you can do.' I did get into the camp, but that idea of kind of being basically discriminated from doing something because of your age kind of popped in my head."
With several interviews conducted, extensive research, and countless hours of editing, this 8-minute podcast reveals the struggle of people who are trying to achieve their goals, but are being held back because of their age. To hear the answer to the question "What is the perfect age?" click here.
The next star from Dalton Middle School is Andrea Marsh. A powerful and moving testament, Marsh's "My Melanin" explains what it is like as a young African-American girl living in America in 2021.
"Every single thing you do in a podcast all really adds to the tone," Marsh said. "Even when you are recording and the person cannot see you. I wanted the person listening to my podcast to be able to see my body language through my words. It was really important to me to make people feel like they were in a room with me having a conversation. The topic I had was something that needed to be very one-on-one."
Through research, tough conversations, and a very long editing process, Marsh's podcast gracefully discussed the conversation of race in America and helps make sense of current times for young African-Americans with moving personal experiences from herself and her family. To listen to "My Melanin," click here.
Stephens and Marsh spent hours conducting interviews and researching their topics. Using a program called Audacity, the students were able to edit their podcasts to the format they wanted. After editing came submission to NPR. Then came the hardest part: waiting for the results.
"I got home one day and my dad told me to call Mrs. Triplett. I edit videos for her and he said I had made an editing error." Stephens said as he explained how he found out how he placed. "While I was calling her, I see my mom videoing. I think I am either in trouble or something is about to happen. She answered and said she had a call from NPR and that's when it finally clicked. I let out a big scream. I was so happy."
Marsh said, "When Mrs. Triplett called, I was confused at first. She said she was calling to check in and because she missed me and I thought okay maybe she is lonely. I totally forgot about the NPR competition. Then she said that Ellis and I had placed the top 12. I also let out a scream and I put the phone on speaker so she could tell my mom. We were so excited."
Triplett said she is so incredibly proud of her students.
"I am so proud of them" Triplett said. "I know what goes into it and I watch the kids in our school and I know that some kids do not put in the mental energy that it takes to create something like this. And how may kids get to be recognized nationally?".
Triplett said she hopes that this becomes a niche for the district and maybe something that brings all the area schools together.
When asked what Marsh would say to others who are her age and might think they are too young to discuss these topics, she said, "You are never too young and never put yourself down like that. You don't know what you are capable of until you do it."