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KDNK/Zanca program empowers local youth

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Puts kids in prime time

By Steve Skinner

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Sopris Sun Correspondent

There are 168 hours in a week. KDNK broadcasts something for
every one of those hours, but there are five hours in particular that are very
unusual in the broadcast landscape.

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KDNK partners with the Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program
(AZYEP), a separate non-profit, to provide training and opportunity to local
youth in community broadcasting. Our collaboration is now 14 years in the
making.

As part of the collaboration, KDNK provides five hours of
prime-time airspace for local youth to broadcast public affairs and music
programming. There is nothing on the terrestrial radio dial that offers that
kind (or any kind) of youth programming. After trolling the state’s nearly 20
public and community radio stations it’s safe to say that KDNK is uniquely
committed to sharing the broadcasting pie with young people.

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Some listeners might say that five hours a week of youth
programming in prime time is too much. But young voices stand out on KDNK
because they are so rarely heard in the media din that makes up today’s world.
Sometimes young people have challenging musical taste but that has been the
case with every generation.

When the kids come on I usually listen closely. Sometimes the
music isn’t for me, but after 27 years of listening and involvement at KDNK I
have a pretty broad tolerance for all sounds. Even though I’ve learned about
some great new music from the kids, the real treat is to hear what they have to
say.

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We work hard to make KDNK safe and comfortable for students and
then encourage them to get creative and speak their minds. This has led to many
hours of what I like to call “goose bump radio.”

KDNK joins with AZYEP to teach a semester-long high school
broadcasting class. The class is open to area high schools and meets every
Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. We teach students to have intelligent conversations. We
foster curiosity and creativity and students learn real-life marketable skills
that will carry them forward for years. The transformation that happens over
the course of a semester is inspiring as our students gain confidence and
skill. We are now in our 12th semester of serving local high school students
with this class.

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This collaboration also reaches into local middle schools, CRMS
and Access Roaring Fork’s after school program. We’ve had some memorable broadcasts
with these kids producing documentaries, PSAs, comedy and safety tips.

The partnership with AZYEP fits KDNK’s mission to provide
public access radio that connects community members to one another and the
world. The youth have access to the airwaves and we benefit by listening in.

I met Andy Zanca when he was eight years old. I was the station
manager at KDNK in 1986 and I did what any other person would have done in my
position at that time: I put him on the air in prime time. He teamed up with
Cody Swidler to do a show called “Kid’s Beat.” They gave updates on school
activities, read the cafeteria lunch menu and played records.

Andy committed suicide at 21-years-old. His sister, Annemarie
Zanca, founded the program in his name. Andy said that being on KDNK was one of
the highlights of his short life. Andy didn’t fit in everywhere but he found a
home and a voice and an opportunity at KDNK and for that I am grateful.

Serving youth is something that KDNK committed to early and
something that the station does very well. Climbing up the tree and looking at
the forest after 30 years it appears that KDNK is one of the only radio
stations in the country nurturing and engaging young people on this level.

Steve Skinner is the General Manager at KDNK and proud to serve
on the board of the Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program. Find out more and
listen to AZYEP collaborations at kdnk.org/youthradio. Steve can be reached at
steve@kdnk.org.

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