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Public Media Changes Lives

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Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

By Belia Saavedra

As Congress starts the conversation about cutting the Federal budget this week, one of the controversial proposals is defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). CPB supports hundreds of public TV and radio stations across the country, and independent producers including Youth Radio where I was a teen reporter, and am now staff.

This funding is not only the force behind great programming such as Sesame Street and This American Life, but from my experience, it's changed lives.

We so often think about storytelling as a one-way act in media. The audience is taken on a journey, and we hope they emerge changed, or with a few more questions. But just as often, the story changes the teller too. Looking back, I can string together lessons I've learned through Youth Radio's partnership with public media, and I realize how important some of those lessons are to who I have become as an adult.

When I was 17, as part of the Youth Radio newsroom, I did the narrative voiceovers for a Morning Edition series on National Public Radio called "E-mails from Kosovo." In the series, I read messages from a teenager living in Kosovo during the armed conflict. She described the sounds of gunfire, and talked about how much she worried about her younger siblings, or the possibility that her father would be killed. And even though the circumstances of the war she was living in were markedly different than the undeclared urban war I saw in my own life, I began to recognize how our stories were related. It was the first time I really understood that the problems of violence were bigger than my block, bigger than my city. I was shaken out of my own grief and anger about what my community was living through and had to really consider what life looked like in other places besides my home. This is a big deal for a teenager- that humbling moment when you realize just how very small you are.

The stories I worked on with Youth Radio for public media also taught me something else I've carried into adulthood- the power of naming my most closely held wounds so that they can heal. In my late teens, I wrote a commentary about what it was like to struggle with severe depression. The lines of the story reveal behaviors and sadness I worked for years to hide from my family and friends. But when I said them out loud to a nation of strangers, I found a degree of freedom from the illness I'd never felt before. I finally understood what some adults had been trying to explain to me for years- that speaking a secret aloud dissolves much of its weight and power.

It is this experiential learning that makes CPB's support of Youth Radio so important. Instead of being talked AT, we get to do our own telling, and open ourselves up to be transformed by the process.

Belia Saavedra is a teacher with Youth Radio and was also an intern at NPR.

Youth Radio/Youth Media International (YMI) is youth-driven converged media production company that delivers the best youth news, culture and undiscovered talent to a cross section of audiences. To read more youth news from around the globe and explore high quality audio and video features, visit Youthradio.org.