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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

SISTER AND BROTHER Addie and Craig Bryda work the soundboard at the WJFF radio station. The teens, both members of the Youth Radio Project, are hoping to leave their home in Cochecton Center for a trip to the national convention in Portland, Ore. later this spring.

Open Minds, Full Voices

By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE — March 21, 2006 – If it’s the media that controls what people think of today’s youth, Addie Bryda’s going to use the media to change that.
The junior at Sullivan West Central School joined radio station WJFF’s Youth Radio Project (YRP) a year and a half ago.
She started with a head full of issues she wanted to rant about on air.
Since then, she’s learned to channel that passion to put together well-researched pieces on issues ranging from the South Dakota court’s vote on abortion to teens’ use of
“It seemed like a way to get a teenager’s opinion out there,” she said of her decision to join the other kids at YRP. “Most negative things teens do get a lot of media attention.”
But school shootings and rampant drug use are the exceptions to the teenage rule, she said.
Bryda and the kids at YRP are a good example of an exception to the rule.
She and brother Craig are a year apart in school.
But they get along – really.
And the number one thing on YRP’s current wishlist?
“Someone to report on local high school sports,” said Instructor Jason Dole.
None of the kids at YRP are really all that into the jock scene.
But they are into radio, and making good radio at that.
The call-in show attracts listeners from as far away as Georgia who tune in to WJFF radio streaming live on the Internet.
And this year, the group will be sending four kids to the National Youth in Radio Training Project Conference in Portland, Ore.
There they will meet hundreds of other teenagers who produce radio shows in studios across the country.
They’ll put in time at intensive workshops on a wide range of topics, returning to Jeffersonville to share what they’ve learned with the other kids of YRP.
This will be the fourth year that YRP will be sending kids to the conference.
It’s the first year they’ll be asking the community to help with funding almost the entire trip.
Money has traditionally been supplied by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB), which runs the youth conference as an offshoot to its Annual Community Radio Conference.
This year the kids at WJFF have only garnered about $300 from the NFCB. That leaves them $4,000 shy of the money necessary to send four kids and two chaperones.
But the kids are out stumping for money, hoping they can earn their way to Portland and put their own stamp on YRP’s growth.
The project began in September 2002 when other, more informal youth radio projects were brought together by the station under one title.
The members quickly put together their pilot episode, and the first “Radio Revolution” aired Nov. 26 with movie, book and music reviews, a feature interview with a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting and their first live call-in.
The pilot was enough to earn the kids their own show by January.
Since last year, that show has been airing weekly on Wednesday nights.
A core group of about six to eight teens works on each show, although YRP has a membership of more than a dozen.
They spend several days a week at the station between planning meetings, putting together their pre-produced segments, and, of course, the live show.
Four of the most active members were chosen for this year’s conference – Addie and Craig Bryda, Dylan Grunn and Katie Schroeder.
Dole said he and YRP Adult Coordinator Betsy Woolf chose representatives they thought would get the most out of the conference and would be able to do the most good when they came back.
Addie Bryda is 16 – she’ll be one of the leaders of YRP when the current class of seniors graduates and moves on.
Her brother Craig, 18, is a senior at Sullivan West. But he’s been a dedicated member since joining a year ago (he was Addie’s ride to meetings, and Dole encouraged him to stick around one night, now he’s a permanent fixture on the show) as well as a fast learner.
Grunn, 16, will be going to the conference for the third time this year.
One of the earliest members to join YRP, the Braman, Pa. resident is YRP’s “ambassador” at the conferences.
He said it’s a great chance to meet other kids and develop skills that you can bring back to share with the group.
That’s what Schroeder did last year.
Also 18 and a senior at Sullivan West, Schroeder went to the conference in Baltimore, Md., last year.
The experiences in Maryland as well as Jeffersonville have put her on a path into broadcasting – she’s still debating on which college to attend.
One of her choices, Emerson, is currently the home of another YRP grad, Amanda Martins, who hosts her own radio show at the Boston college.
“It’s a great medium to have your voice heard,” Schroeder said of WJFF.
In the past few years, she’s had her chance to voice her opinions on everything from Terri Schiavo to the teen center proposed by the folks from “Town Haul” in Jeffersonville.
The teens try to stick to topics that affect teens – but that doesn’t keep them from touching on broader issues.
The upcoming broadcast will focus on science – a subject most teenagers study in school. But one interview segment will feature Bill Nye the Science Guy – a figure familiar to folks of any age.
And their listeners aren’t just teens.
During a recent show about MySpace, a principal from the Wallenpaupack Area High School placed a call to the station to talk about teenagers getting online and setting up their own blogs.
“I liked how she treated us,” Addie Bryda said. “She didn’t talk down to us, she didn’t talk to us like she was our principal.”
The teens earn respect on air – for the most part (there are some hecklers who call in) – because they put time into their work.
“With radio, you learn it’s very important to know your stuff,” Bryda noted.
“People will call you on it,” Schroeder explained. “You can’t lie, you have to admit if you don’t know.”
But often, they do know, because they choose issues that keep them interested – issues they hope will interest others.
One of the pieces Craig is most proud of was one that hit close to home.
He produced an entire segment on long-distance relationships last year.
“It was fall, my girlfriend had just broken up with me because she went off to college,” he said with a self-deprecating laugh. “It was very close to my heart!”
But pieces like that take time, between recording and editing.
“A decent five-minute feature could take you 10 hours,” Dole noted.
It’s because the kids put the time in that the show has continued to grow, with more listeners and more topics.
Sending the kids to the national level is something major for a small station, he said.
There the local teens will meet kids from places like Chicago where teens have an entire radio station to themselves.
“It’s all different levels [at the conference],” Dole noted. “It’s amazing what these kids get at this national convention.”
For more on YRP, tune in Wednesday nights from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., call WJFF Station Manager Christine Ahern at 482-4141, e-mail or log onto
To help the kids make their trip, tax-deductible donations can be sent to WJFF, P.O. Box 546, Jeffersonville, NY 12748. Youth Radio Project should be noted in the memo.
A Battle of the Bands fundraiser is in the works for the teens’ trip, scheduled for April 1. More information will be available in a future issue of the Democrat.

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