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Youth is heard, and served, in Zanca program

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Broadcasting on KDNK

By Adele Craft

Sopris Sun Intern

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The Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program (AZYEP) is an organization based in Carbondale that is run through KDNK Community Radio. The program teaches radio broadcasting to youth in the Roaring Fork Valley.

There are about 30 kids in the program, ages eight to 18, who rotate to do weekly radio shows. The AZYPEP staffers — Stacy Stein and Beth Wysong — partner with local teachers to record student projects and provide opportunities for classes to learn about being on the radio. During the past school year, they have worked with more than 360 different students from various schools.

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Stein told The Sopris Sun, “It’s cool that we can work with large groups of students and give them that sense of being famous by being on the radio. Even if they don’t come back week after week, it’s still a really empowering experience.”

Through these partnerships, the program can reach many kids in a short amount of time. In addition to the weekly shows, AZYEP students put on a public affairs show once a month, featuring various topics that are prevalent in the valley. Stein said she believes that, “Youth have an important voice and the community needs opportunities to listen in.”

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Stein has been the executive director for seven and a half years. Fund-raising, marketing and outreach are her main focuses. She also works with local high schools to do classroom partnerships. Wysong joined the AZYEP team last March as the program director. She trains, schedules and works with the youth DJs to do their shows.

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History

The program was started in 2000 by Annemarie Zanca, the sister of the late Andy Zanca. Andy was a DJ on KDNK. He started his show when he was around 9 or 10 years old. Andy had a tough home situation and did not quite fit in. According to Annemarie, “KDNK became a place where he hung out and got to be friends with the adults that were running the station. It became a very comfortable place for him to be … So when Andy had this skill that not too many kids his age had, it did help his self-esteem. It gave him a place where he could be successful that helped to make him feel better about himself.” He was a DJ at KDNK until he was 21, when he took his own life. Annemarie started the program using Andy as an inspiration. “Youth radio gives youth a voice, gives them a place to express their thoughts and ideas and even express themselves through their choice of music,” she said. “That is what is empowering about it.”

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Today

Being a part of AZYEP has influenced the lives of many young people in the Roaring Fork Valley. Shannon Moran, a freshman at Bridges High School, has been a part of the program for more than three years. She told The Sopris Sun, “The biggest impact KDNK has had on my life would be just the sheer amount of wonderful, talented people I have come to know, especially the other youth DJ’s like myself. They have introduced me to a different aspect of community, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Wysong agreed, “AZYEP allows students to see that they are a vital role in our community, and with the help of KDNK it gives young people a sense of place.”

Being on the radio introduces young people to new aspects of their community and gives them a place where they feel like they belong. On her shows, Moran plays as much music as possible, with limited breaks. She plays a wide variety of musical genres, but lately has been focusing on classic rock and jazz.

Miles Craft, a home-schooled seventh grader, has also being doing his show for a little over three years. He said, “KDNK has impacted my life by allowing me to be on the air. It helped me be a good speaker while on radio breaks and it has made me be a good writer because I have to write a script that I use on each show.” Being a part of AZYEP has given him skills that he would otherwise not have access to.

This phenomenon is not only unique to Craft. “I love seeing students come out of their shell through the radio,” said Wysong. “I have worked with teenagers for many years, and I have witnessed students who are fearful of the judgment and negative feedback they receive when speaking in front of others, adults and peers alike. Radio seems to enable those timid students to speak without the pressure of this judgment. It’s almost like the airwaves provide protection to young people who often shut down in front of others. These students thrive on the radio, and it is amazing to watch them feel empowered over the airwaves.”

To find out when these DJs will be on the air, visit www.azyep.org. There are also several exciting shows coming up soon. On Nov. 19 from 4:30 to 5 p.m., youth DJs will host a public affairs show featuring conversations with teachers and graduates of a life- skills class that is taught at Bridges, Basalt, Roaring Fork, Glenwood Springs and Yampah high schools. In January, third graders from Crystal River Elementary School will present personal narratives they wrote.

You can hear youth radio shows every Monday afternoon from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. and Sunday afternoons from 1:30 to 3 p.m. The public affairs shows take place on the third Wednesday of every month from 4:30 to 5 p.m. To hear these shows, go to kdnk.org and click on “live stream” on the left side of the page or tune into 88.1 FM in Carbondale, 88.3 in Aspen, 88.5 in Basalt and Redstone, 93.5 in Leadville and 94.9 in Thomasville.

“Thank you to all the listeners and supporters of AZYEP,” Wysong concluded. “AZYEP is a free program open to any and every young person in our community, which is what makes the program unique to our valley. Our supporters are invaluable to helping the program thrive and we cannot do it without you. Thank you for your continued support!”

Next steps

Stacy Stein, Beth Wysong and student DJs are trying to raise $10,000 to sustain the program. They are reaching out to individuals in the community, fans and youth DJs and their families and are asking for donations. Any amount will make a big difference. To make a contribution, people can go online to azyep.org and click on “support youth radio.” They can also send a check to Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program, P.O. Box 1945, Carbondale, CO 81623.

Christian Nusz (left), DJ Vinyl Scratch (center) and Beth Wysong (right) discuss who will say what for an upcoming on-air break in the music at KDNK on Monday. Wysong acted as the show’s engineer and helped to line up and preview songs before they were aired. Other Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program shows coming up include a public affairs segment featuring teachers and graduates of life-skills classes taught at high schools in Carbondale, Glenwood and Basalt. In January, third graders from Crystal River Elementary School will present personal narratives they wrote. Photo by Lynn Burton

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