A team of students from William R. Davie Middle STEM Academy in Halifax County recently earned an Honorable Mention in the first National Public Radio Student Podcast Challenge.
The seven-member team, which called itself the Viking Voices, conducted interviews with a trio of international instructors at the school for a podcast entitled Long Road Home.
The team worked over a four-month period to conduct interviews with Davie Media Coordinator Maribeth Aguila, who is from the Philippines, 7th grade Science teacher Benedict Fagbeyiro, who was born in Nigeria, and 6th grade English instructor Sutania McBean, who is from Jamaica.
The podcast examines what lead them to become teachers, how they came to Halifax County, and their personal reasons for investing in their students’ futures.
(The podcast can be heard at this link: https://soundcloud.com/alexanderhsargent)
According to NPR reporter Steve Drummond, one of the contest’s organizers, 300 podcasts were selected as Honorable Mentions out of the over 5,700 submissions from around the country, putting Davie’s entry in the top 5 percent nationwide.
“It’s really been a joy to see how much these students invested in this project,” said Alexander Sargent, Davie’s 6th Grade Social Studies teacher and the team’s faculty sponsor. “They were willing to put so much effort into the podcast, and I couldn’t be happier that they are being recognized for their excellent work.”
A recurring theme in the podcast is that students in the United States take their education for granted, especially compared to students in the interviewed teachers’ home countries.
“Mrs. Aguila made the point that students have to pay for their education in the Philippines,” said Haley Richardson, the team’s head audio editor. “They have to pay for their supplies. They have to pay to ride the bus. They have to pay for their lunch. We’re privileged.”
“We really don’t take advantage of everything that we have,” added Braeden Bobbitt, the team’s lead producer and an 8th grader at Davie.
“Compared to those countries, we have so much more as far as education goes,” said 8th grader Alejandro Perez, the team’s chief writer. “And we take it for granted most of the time.”
That perspective about the privilege of free public education in the United States highlights the dual purposes of the podcast. Students were given the opportunity to learn more about a topic of their choice, while also gaining valuable experience with audio editing and recording.
“It gave me the chance to do something I’ve never done before” Isaiah Cain, an 8th grade student and the podcast’s narrator, said of the podcast. “I can do something like this again in the future.”
Sargent started the team after Rodney Pierce, Davie’s 8th grade Social Studies teacher and department chair, suggested in November that he should find a group of students who would be interested in participating in the contest. Pierce thought the second-year Teach For America corps member was a natural fit to sponsor the team.
“Mr. Sargent has a background in journalism and podcasts dating back to his days at the University of Florida,” Pierce pointed out. “I wanted to put him in the best position to use his talents to benefit our students in a setting where our school could possibly gain national recognition, and we got it.”