ZUMIX is a space that draws you in. Headquartered in an old firehouse in East Boston, the building’s walls are covered with audition notices, event announcements, artist profiles and shelves of old records. String lights give the classrooms a warm glow, while the dark corners are filled by the shadows of pianos, guitars and drumsets. On Tuesdays between 4 and 6 pm, when Teens in Print’s Carla Gualdron and Alyssa Vaughn visit ZUMIX for the Pass the Mic program, the room across the hall is occupied by an elementary school chorus; the open space above, by a drumming program. The mixed sounds of the building pass through the walls, setting a beat for the teens typing away at their articles.
The goal of the Pass the Mic program is to introduce a new cohort of students to journalism by integrating Teens in Print’s curriculum into an existing youth development program. At ZUMIX, this is Brittany Thomas’s radio class. Thomas, who circles the room along with Gualdron and Vaughn, helping students structure their articles and integrate quotes, thinks the programs were an obvious pairing. “The goal of both our radio program and Teens in Print is opening space for youth to talk what they care about...and getting youth to think about news both as producers and readers,” she said.
Both radio and print journalism rely heavily on good communication and presentation skills, but each has nuances particular to its format. Pass the Mic students hope to gain a variety of skills from their time as journalists, whether it is bettering their writing skills, exploring a new genre and medium, or using interviews as an opportunity to get rid of a stutter. “[Journalism has] taught me to be more investigative...to go straight to what you actually want to find,” said Cristian Palma, a Snowden International High School sophomore. “And people skills! You’re actively responding to questions, and you’re actively interviewing people, and you’re actively writing it down for the world to see.”
Many of the students spend a lot of time at ZUMIX. Often on the recommendation of a music teacher, they wander in and never leave. In addition to radio, quite a few students take music-related classes. Abe Caban Reyes, an Excel Academy Charter High School sophomore who is taking a songwriting class in addition to the radio program, mentions the genre-transferable skills that journalism has given him. “By taking two writing classes, I think I can be a better journalist, I can be a better songwriter.”
Both ZUMIX and Teens in Print lets students extend their influence into the world. “It’s really fun, and it is exciting to actually present your views to the world, to talk to everybody, see what people might react to it, and getting information that might be useful to someone,” said Palma.
“Pass the Mic isn't simply the Teens in Print curriculum taken on the road—with each cycle, we're meeting new teenagers and taking notes from other youth-serving organizations, and we're using those insights to enhance our own programming," said Vaughn. "For example, I think our partnership with ZUMIX's radio program really reinforced the value of interviews in the reporting process. Because our ZUMIX cohort was producing entire radio shows out of their interviews, the quotes in their articles are some of the most robust in this entire issue, and that really gives those pieces a particular color and flair."
Caban Reyes, swiveling in a chair in the recording studio, said, “I felt like I had a story to tell...I feel like there’s more news out there in the world that people don’t know about, and it’s really important for teens to have a voice in that kind of stuff.”
The articles in this section were each produced during the nine-week Pass the Mic cycle at ZUMIX.