By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff
Maija Petterson’s passion for radio would be noteworthy even if she wasn’t a senior at Glenwood Springs High School.
She listens to NPR every morning, DJs on KDNK whenever she gets the chance and has recently launched a fundraising campaign for the station’s Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program (AZYEP).
It all started five years ago, when AZYEP co-director Beth Wysong invited Petterson to spend some time on the air.
“As an awkward little eighth grader I thought it would be the coolest thing ever,” Petterson recalled. “I didn’t know what to play, so I played all my parents’ music.”
She later found her own groove with some help from her peers, other DJs and KDNK’s extensive library of music in a range of formats.
“I think all kids have their own journey in music,” she noted, which might be as simple as spinning around in a circle and playing whatever you end up pointing at.
She also learned clarity and confidence.
“It allowed me to come out of my shell,” she said. “Being able to do something public but not in a public setting appeals to both extroverts and introverts.”
Added Wysong, “I’ve witnessed her growth toward becoming an invaluable asset to the program and a leader in every sense of the word. She truly cares about the program, her community, and in truth, the world.”
When Wysong suggested a student presence on the board, Petterson again jumped at the chance to be something of an interpreter for the kids.
“They trust me and can tell me what they like and what they want,” she said.
Every senior in Roaring Fork School District is expected to so some sort of Capstone project, and for Petterson the topic was a no-brainer.
“This program has been such a huge part of my growing up” she said, “I wanted it to be available for other kids as well”
With the help of over a dozen fellow youth DJs, she’s hoping to raise at least $2,000 — and ideally more — for AZYEP by Dec. 6. Each kid is taking a different tact, so expect to see jars at businesses or youngsters out giving the pitch.
“It’s totally student led,” noted co-director Stacy Stein. “When people support this fundraiser, they’re really showing their support for youth leadership, initiative, and the potential young people have to make a difference in the community.”
Meanwhile, Petterson is getting a crash course in management, fundraising and putting herself out there in a different way. It’s good practice for someone who’s considering getting a degree in education — perhaps at the University of Puget Sound, which not coincidentally hosts one of the country’s top college radio stations.
“The more I work with kids, the more I realize I love teaching,” she said.
And while her voice will be missed on the local airwaves, there are plenty of other kids with something to share. The program features hundreds of students over the course of a year with its outreach programs, with a core of more directly involved live DJs.
“AZYEP acts as a bridge between different populations in the community,” Wysong explained. The program incorporates girls and boys, students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, high achievers and at-risk youth, students that identify as heterosexual and who identify as gay and lesbian, youth with disabilities, and students from various communities ranging from Aspen to Parachute, both Anglo and Latino.”
In order for the program to truly flourish, however, people have to tune in — 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Mondays, 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and 4:30 to 5 p.m. third Wednesdays at 88.1, 88.3 or 88.5.
“By having an authentic audience that listens to students, they really feel like they belong and are able to contribute to the community,” Stein said.
For more information or to donate, visit azyep.org.