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High School Students Record Radio Spots Through WISE



Tuesday, March 01, 2016
When teenagers want information about such front-and-center issues as sexual and domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, bullying and gender expectations, where, and to whom, do they turn?

They might talk to their parents, teachers or guidance counselors, but it’s more likely that they’ll talk to each other first, before going to an adult.

With that in mind, WISE, the advocacy group in Lebanon that works with people who have endured domestic and sexual violence, is producing a series of radio spots, called “WISE Words,” aimed at adolescents and their families.

The spots, which have been funded by a grant from Hypertherm’s Hope Foundation, in Lebanon, will address such complex issues as dating violence, gender stereotypes, sexual violence, consent and relationships between teens.

The minute-long spots, which first aired Monday and will run for a year, will appear weekday mornings between 7:35 and 7:45 on The River, 106.7 FM, and between 7:15 and 7:25 on WGXL, 92.3 FM, both of which are owned by Great Eastern Radio.

Those time slots, and stations, were selected because they have the highest listenership in the Upper Valley among teens (and their parents) on their way to school, said Mike Lang, an account executive at Great Eastern Radio, which owns 17 stations in New England, six of which serve the Upper Valley.

Each “WISE Words” segment is read by a student from a local high school. Hanover, Windsor, Woodstock, Lebanon and Hartford high schools, all of which collaborate with WISE to present education programs in the classroom, have been the first to sign on to the radio segments, said Betsy Kohl, a marketing consultant for WISE who helped to devise the campaign.

“We’re always thinking about how can we connect with our community,” said Chelsea Williams, the training coordinator at WISE who also introduces each recorded spot, and the student reading it. “Radio is the best opportunity to reach people. We’re reaching people when they’re comfortable, and in their own space.”

On a recent weekday afternoon, Megan Fariel, a senior at Hartford High School and a WISE intern, was getting ready to tape her segment at the WISE office. She sat at a long table, microphone in front of her, while Williams and Kohl sat near her. Lang, who records the segments, sat next to Fariel.

Fariel, who is writing an honors thesis on gender, was reading over the script for the segment on gender stereotypes. She’d already made a small word change, which Williams encourages students to do if the phrasing sounds unnatural or clumsy. The idea, Williams said, is to use “language and ideas current to people’s lives. We want to inspire people.”

Lang signalled to Fariel that she could begin.

“What is gender?” Fariel read in a clear, confident voice. She read through to the last sentence: “Just imagine a world without gender stereotypes.”

After listening to the recording there was a small debate about whether the final sentence was necessary. The group agreed that it wasn’t, and decided to end instead with the script’s penultimate sentence: “How do stereotypes limit our ability to be ourselves and how do they affect our relationships?”

Fariel said she thinks the radio segments will accomplish what they set out to do because they’re read by teens and directed at teens. “Hearing something from your peers will normally lead to it being listened to,” she said.

Williams hopes the radio segments open up sensitive topics to discussion. “Parents often say they want to have these conversations: this is a way to prompt conversation,” she said.

The five segments will rotate so that each one is heard on a different weekday, Kohl said. At the end of five weeks, WISE will produce a new set of scripts that will build on the subjects already addressed, she said. The advantage of this, said Williams, is that it allows WISE to introduce “concepts and ideas individually and slowly.”

With such public information campaigns on radio, it usually takes two to three months for the message to sink in with the listenership, Lang said.

Earlier in the day, Jill Dion, a Lebanon High senior active in educating students about mental health and substance abuse issues, had recorded, in the school’s guidance office, a segment on the issue of consent. She read from the script: “Why do you think it’s awkward to ask before doing anything? Is it just because that’s not what we see happening in movies or hear in music? How can we make asking for consent feel normal or a legitimate expectation?”

Dion said afterwards that she hopes that hearing this from a high school student, rather than an adult, will make her peers more accepting of the radio spot’s message.

“You ask before doing anything, but with that stuff it seems like people don’t talk about it,” she said.

Emily Musty, a student assistance provider at Lebanon High School, wrote in an email that “it is important for youth to have a voice in their community and this was a great opportunity for (Dion) to get involved and feel as though she is part of the solution.”

WISE will also promote further discussion — and people can submit ideas for further topics — through its website and Facebook page, and the radio stations will provide links to WISE through their webs ites. When the year-long grant runs out, it’s likely that WISE will look for funding to continue the program.

“We are looking at this as a multi-year project,” Kohl said.

For information on WISE Words, please contact Chelsea Williams at chelsea.williams@wiseoftheuppervalley.org.

Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.