Here's What Young People Care About. Listen And Learn
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Some things we planned for. We wanted to listen to stories about young people, reported by young journalists. Some things we did not plan for. We did not know we'd be covering a terrorist attack in Europe from here. One listener took note. She tweeted that hearing us from Youth Radio reminded her that we need to leave young people with a better world. And I've got to say, seeing these young faces was somehow comforting during this difficult week. I had a chance to chat with some of the young journalists here about their future.
GREENE: I am sitting around a table with three Youth Radio reporters. Desmond Meagley is 19 years old. He's to my left. Desmond, how are you?
DESMOND MEAGLEY: I'm good. How are you doing?
GREENE: I'm good. Kensha Secrease. You're 17 years old...
KENSHA SECREASE: Yes.
GREENE: ...And you're to my right. OK, and Billy Cruz, you're 18 years old.
BILLY CRUZ: Yeah, I'm 18 years old.
GREENE: OK. Kensha, let me turn to you. What issue is most important to you right now?
SECREASE: Graduating and going to college is really important to me right now. I dreamed of, like, going to a historically black college. But it's really expensive. So I'm, like, worried how I can pay for that since I'm not rich. And I don't want to take out loans because that'll set up debt for me.
GREENE: You are touching on an issue that I think is so, so important to so many families right now, and I wonder, how have you been talking about this with your family in terms of how you can try to make this happen for you?
SECREASE: I don't really talk to my dad about the financial part of college. I just tell him where I got accepted and where I dream to go because he didn't go to college. So he doesn't really know what I'm going through. Like, he doesn't know what it's like to go apply to colleges and, like, not getting accepted, worrying about my GPA and stuff like that. So I don't really go to him for advice.
GREENE: Well, we're all rooting for you. I hope you get to a college that you really like, and...
SECREASE: Thank you.
GREENE: Billy, you have actually been looking into this issue of college affordability, right?
CRUZ: Yeah, so film has been a passion of mine for most of my life. And I always thought, when I was younger, like, I'm going to go to, like, the greatest film school I can, where the classes are amazing but, like, the tuition's super high. And then I decided in the end to settle on a school that still is a really good film school, but it's also close by. But yeah, I have a clip that I was going to play for you, sort of my mom and me talking over the process because...
GREENE: You interviewed your mom...
CRUZ: ...I interviewed my mom, but.
GREENE: Let's listen to what she has to say.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's scary because I have friends whose kids have gone to college and got there, and they hated it. And it was out-of-state. And it's just one of those things, just, like, you would hate it if your kid went far away, paid all this money for them to go there, and now nobody's happy.
GREENE: So she's talking about the risk of putting in a lot of money and investing a lot and finding out that you aren't happy and feeling like it wasn't worth it.
CRUZ: Yeah, yeah, yeah that's a whole other, like, part of it. It's just going there and spending all this money only to realize, like, oh, my God, I don't want to do this, or oh, my God, this school isn't the school for me.
GREENE: Kensha, let's say things go well. And you figure out a way to get to a college, university that you're really happy with. What - take me five years down the road. What do you want to be doing? What's your dream?
SECREASE: I dream of becoming a lawyer. I think a public defender is the way that I want to go because...
GREENE: That's a - providing a good service.
SECREASE: ...I want to serve the people. Yeah, but if I don't do that, I have, like, a backup plan of being a therapist for children.
GREENE: I like that. Desmond, what's your college situation?
MEAGLEY: I am a proud community college student. I rep Berkeley City College...
GREENE: Uh huh.
MEAGLEY: What Billy's talking about, about college buyer's remorse, like, that really resonates with me. I remember, like, being a senior, starting to apply to colleges and thinking about all the money I was going to spend, maybe having to take out a student loan and, like, put myself into debt. I chose to go to a community college, and I can transfer to a university or, you know, wherever I want after two years and basically spend half the money I would've spent on tuition.
GREENE: Kensha, is that an option for you? Have you - would you talk to dad about a community college maybe, and...
SECREASE: No, I think I'm opposite. I don't want to stay in Oakland. I actually want to start over and, like, meet new people.
GREENE: Well, let me shift gears a tiny bit. This is an election year. And am I right? The three of you are going to be voting for the first time in this presidential election?
MEAGLEY: Yes, sir.
GREENE: OK. I'm so curious. Clearly affordability is something that's sort of on your - all of your minds. Billy, do you feel your vote's going to count?
CRUZ: Yeah, it's - I feel like if I don't vote, it definitely won't go anywhere. So at least I am able to say on a piece of paper that I felt this way about something. There's also other ways I feel like we could still make a difference. And whether or not my vote matters, I feel like I still have a voice.
GREENE: Well, Kensha, let me turn to you. You're at this really important moment in your life when you're thinking about your future. You're thinking about school. You're thinking about your dreams. I mean, do you feel like your vote matters in your life?
SECREASE: I don't think so. Like, I'm still going to vote. But I'm just going to hope that other people vote the same way that I do because, like, I'm only one person out of thousands of people.
GREENE: Desmond, do you feel like voting is a place that is available to you to sort of bring change? Will your vote count?
MEAGLEY: I debate that with myself often. I just think that the money in politics, you know, is a real obstacle between "democracy," quote, unquote, and actual democracy.
GREENE: You feel like money has corrupted politics in a way?
MEAGLEY: I think so. I think that's undeniable. The other thing is that I think that candidates have historically really undervalued youth voters because there's this perception - and there's some truth to that perception - that young voters don't really turn out to elections and things like that. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that young people sort of feel disillusioned and like they're not really valued. And so it's sort of almost, like, a vicious cycle.
GREENE: How does that change?
MEAGLEY: When politicians start treating youth like voters and when they stop messing around on social media to try and, like, appeal to young people, like, I'm going to tap that young vote if I send a Snapchat. It's like, no, we want you to talk to us like we have a brain because we do and because we're listening. And we're really hard to appeal to. We're very diverse. We're a huge generation population-wise and aspiration-wise. I think we're a very motivated generation. We see a lot of problems in front of us.
GREENE: Well, thanks to all three of you.
MEAGLEY: Thank you, David.
CRUZ: Thank you, this has been super fun.
SECREASE: Thanks, see you later.
GREENE: That was Desmond Meagley, Kensha Secrease, and Billy Cruz. They're reporters here at Youth Radio. All this week on the show, we've been hearing Youth Radio's music, and this is "Oh Man," from a young producer who goes by G Baby. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.