Podcasting course takes off with new studio in Ypsilanti Community Schools

As Ypsilanti Community High School's (YCHS) new podcasting course enters its second year in a newly-built studio, its popularity is growing with students. 

"We thought that because podcasting is such a huge and growing industry, it was something we should add to the programming here at the high school," says YCHS Marketing Teacher Zuqueta Brown.

Brown pitched the course to Ypsilanti Community Schools' administration about two years ago after working with Audio Wave Network, a Detroit-based network of podcasters of color, as an audio engineer for over six years. Audio Wave Network founder Jonathan Galloway also served as a volunteer advisor for the program, suggesting equipment to purchase and ideas to include in the curriculum, Brown says.

She says many students want an alternative to college after high school, and YCHS directs those students to Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses, like its existing culinary, automotive, and cosmetology programs. Brown has a background in teaching marketing as part of CTE curriculum and is working on having the school's podcasting course recognized as a state-certified CTE program. In that case, Brown says the course can attract more state and federal funding and expand the program with more teachers, allowing them to serve more than the current 30-student limit.

Brown says podcasts appeal to younger generations who are used to streaming, binge-watching, and accessing content on demand.

"This is the perfect medium for this group of students and their generation," Brown says. 

All podcasts are "student-run, student-created, student-recorded," Brown says. She lets students pick their own topics. They can choose to be on-air talent or work behind the scenes as an audio engineer or script writer, as well. She notes that, even if a student doesn't go on to do podcasting for a living, they will learn communication, project management, and other skills from the podcasting course.

"From the topics they produce to the names of the shows to the cover art, it's completely student-decided," Brown says. "I don't try to pick their topics, because the things they come up with are so much better."

Student podcasts have featured topics from school news and announcements to storytelling to answering anonymous questions.

"We even had one for the littles. My student read children's books from the elementary school library next door, so that teachers could play those books in the elementary classroom," Brown says. "I never even would have thought of that."

Community members may listen to the student podcasts on Spotify here.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Zuqueta Brown.
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