The Public Square

11th Grade University High Student Ruth Welch on working with WILL Youth Outreach programs


Have you ever met an 8th grader whose knowledge of segregation and racism stems from conversations with people who experienced the repercussions of the1954 Brown v Board of Education case firsthand? Have you ever encountered a 9th grader who could tell you what a genetic algorithm is? Have you ever come across a 10th grader who could tell you about the struggles and triumphs of the Jewish population in his or her community? Have you ever met an 11th grader who knows that journalism is about so much more than writing editorials or sharing the results of the latest basketball game? If not, then you certainly haven't talked to the teens who have been lucky enough to work with WILL on one or more of its numerous youth outreach projects.

However, if you were to meet me, an 11th grader at University Laboratory High School who has participated in three WILL youth outreach programs, you would be able to answer yes to all of the above questions. In my three years working with WILL, I have met people whose childhoods were shaped by the outcome of the 1954 Brown v Board of Education case. I've heard the stories of people who have endured derision and ridicule because of their religious beliefs. And I would be thrilled to tell you about the myriad of ways in which genetic algorithms influence your life daily. Working with my community's public radio station has transformed me into a more aware and worldly individual, a transformation that many people do not undergo prior to college.

Working with WILL has also taught me what radio journalism is really about: connecting with people. Of course, I have also learned all about the technological aspects of radio journalism: I know how to edit interviews, write scripts, and voice programs. But the most valuable thing that my experiences with WILL have taught me is how to connect with people, no matter how different they may be from me. This ability is sure to be invaluable no matter what my future career path. I do not believe that I could have learned this skill so thoroughly anywhere but at my community's public radio station.

As a junior in high school, I'm not sure what I want to do with the rest of my life. But working with WILL has certainly given me people skills that I will need wherever I go. Furthermore, my experiences at WILL have instilled in me a love of people and their stories that may very well prompt me to enter the field of journalism. What I have learned at my public radio station has prepared me for whatever field I choose to pursue, and I hope that many more high school students will have the opportunity that I have had.