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Inspiring Today’s Youth to Share their Stories, One Podcast at a Time

May 8, 2019
By FH4Inclusion

This spring, FleishmanHillard’s San Francisco office partnered with 826 Valencia, a nonprofit created by author Dave Eggers that helps under-resourced students with their writing and storytelling skills. The organization is founded on the belief that when students are confident in and proud of their writing skills, they can unlock new opportunities. As they feel empowered to share their thoughts and celebrate their cultures, they help make the world a more inclusive place.

Our FH4Inclusion volunteers helped middle-school students tap into their creativity and amplify their voices by working with them to write and produce their own podcast episodes. The students were asked to write poems about their names or their identities, giving them a chance to explore and share more information about themselves. As the day progressed, they developed a podcast, recorded it in a professional-quality sound booth, and chose sound effects for their shows. The episodes were then uploaded to 826 Valencia’s podcast page, Message in a Bottle. With 29,000 listens last school year alone, the podcasting program provides students with an incredible opportunity to share their diverse perspectives with a wide audience.

San Francisco FH4Inclusion team supports 826 Valencia.
San Francisco FH4Inclusion team supports 826 Valencia.

Many of the students we worked with were apprehensive when they first began the writing exercise. Vulnerability is a necessary and powerful tool for writers, as stories packed with emotion tend to leave a lasting impression. However, for most middle-schoolers, vulnerability does not come easy. One of the students feared being criticized by his peers, making it hard for him to think outside of the box. After working through the provided toolkit exercises, the student was having enough fun to forget about his initial fears. He smiled through minor bumps, including slight writer’s block and feeling afraid to recite his poem in the audio booth. Once he and his tutor worked on techniques to overcome the fear, including the art of inflection and smiling while speaking, he truly shone. Encouraging these students to find the confidence for self-expression made for an extremely rewarding and inspiring experience for our volunteers.

826 Valencia’s podcasting program teaches students the importance of details and description, presentation skills and the basics of podcasting and sound editing – many of the same talents we use to help our clients tell compelling stories. We’re thankful that as communicators, our own skills and experiences could impact 30+ students in our local community, helping them make great strides in their storytelling and creative writing abilities, and setting them up for future success.

Sara Gong supports our corporate reputation practice and Christine Gatterman works for our healthcare team. Both are based out of our San Francisco office.