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Saturday Light Brigade launches kids-only radio station Youth Express

youth express radio
Kate Pendlebury
October26/ 2015

For Pittsburgh’s young poets, pundits, journalists, musicians and other creatives, the Saturday Light Brigade (SLB) has just launched a new outlet for expression. Youth Express provides 24/7 online radio streaming where young people can find and broadcast their voices.

Based in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, SLB has a noteworthy history of producing radio content for and by children, and training youth in self-expression. The organization’s mission is to expand youth media literacy and participation, and at the same time develop creativity, critical thinking and cooperation.

Youth Express aims to provide a home for past and future SLB projects (and will also air their longstanding Saturday morning radio show), to create a venue for programs created by other organizations and to invite young people to share their voices. And the project is ambitious. “We want to make a national model for amplifying and distributing authentic youth voice,” says Larry Berger, Founder and Executive Director of SLB.

The radio station’s objective is to capture what Berger describes as children’s “indigenous expression,” while also bringing together youth from a variety of backgrounds to learn and practice collaborative innovation.

Youth Express consists of a 24/7 internet radio stream including both scheduled and curated programs and also downloadable content that can be accessed through Soundcloud, Public Radio Exchange and Neighborhood Voices. The schedule includes creative writing, performance, journalism and discussion. Users can reach the online stream at the Youth Express website, through their favorite media players, via the Tune In or Simple Radio apps (both free) or by using a portable Wi-Fi radio.

Among the existing SLB projects that Youth Express will house is a sequence of youth documentaries funded by The Heinz Endowments. These consist of three to four minute radio documentaries made by participants in this year’s summer internship program, where youth discuss a selection of hot topics that move them personally, such as gender equality, the experiences of Somali refugees and the policing of women in rural PA. Documentaries air at 6 a.m., 12 p.m., 6 p.m. and midnight.

Youth Express is not only a venue for SLB productions, Berger adds.

“While SLB already annually works with thousands of students across 50-plus schools and community centers to record and develop Youth Express features, Youth Express is also designed to distribute features based on work facilitated by other people and organizations passionate about youth voice,” says Berger.

Later this year, for instance Youth Express will present a program created by The Ellis School,  where students will present classroom essays and poetry and discuss current affairs.

The radio station invites children and organizations that work with children to propose content and come up with their own ideas for programming. Contributors can be more or less involved in the production elements, as they prefer. Any and all material is welcomed, as Youth Express aims, first, to broadcast young voices. While the targeted kids are roughly 10 to 18 years old, Berger is reluctant to lay out any restrictions. The goal of the project, after all, is expression.

Youth Express is made possible by grants from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation and the Citrone Fund. If you or your kids are interested in becoming involved, email info@youthexpress.org.

Featured Photo: Youth Express, photo courtesy of Saturday Light Brigade

Kate Pendlebury

A logophile and joker, Kate Pendlebury has a PhD in Children's Literature. She would like to climb trees, but her energetic and gregarious toddler requires that she keep both feet on the ground.