Untold Stories Winners and Podcast
â€œPeople think differently about kids â€™cause they donâ€™t know them. But what would you expect if you only see bad behaviors from kids? . . . If they donâ€™t show their good side, how would you know that theyâ€™re good?â€
Thatâ€™s a quote from â€œRydl,â€ a teen who is locked up near Salt Lake City, speaking during a podcast of Untold Stories. â€œRydlâ€ helped produce the podcast with Spy Hop, a nonprofit that works with young men incarcerated in Utah.
In our Thanksgiving newsletter, we highlighted excerpts from some of the winning essays from our nationwide writing initiative, Untold Stories. I wanted to send this follow-up newsletter to encourage our readers to take a few minutes to read some of the winning essays and listen to the podcast.
If we want to understand the terrible challenges that many young people in the juvenile justice system faced growing up, the best place to start is with their own accounts of their early lives. For the vast majority, the past was rife with trauma, violence, and indignityâ€”and devoid of hope, trust, and opportunity.
As a student wrote in an essay entitled Raped: â€œEverything that has happened to someone in their life takes a toll on them, the way they think, and the way they are. . . . Iâ€™m not blaming my past for my decisions, but it does have something to do with who I am today.â€
Thatâ€™s the twofold challenge those of us who care about incarcerated kids must confront. We must push the juvenile justice systemâ€”and the schools in youth facilitiesâ€”to truly meet the educational and rehabilitative needs of the young people in their care. At the same time, we must challenge the larger economic and political forces in our country that allow too many children to grow up in conditions that lead to an increased likelihood of juvenile justice system involvement.
The young men who worked with Spy Hop to produce the Untold Stories podcast offered candid perspectives on the essays. When asked what he hoped listeners would get from the podcast, Troy, one of the student producers, focused on the violence and tragedy that so dominated the essays: â€œIt happens. We need to do something to stop it.â€
I agree, and know that those of you reading this do, too.
Click here to listen to the Spy Hop podcast of Untold Stories.
Congratulations to all of the students who submitted essays as part of Untold Stories, including those selected as winners. An additional set of student essays will be featured by Richard Ross this spring in his forthcoming publication, Juvie Talk.
We salute Adam Sherlock and his team at Spy Hop for empowering the young men they worked with. You can listen to other podcasts theyâ€™ve produced at Sending Messages.
And to Troy, Dream, Bryte, Angel, Rydl, Yroc, and Mighty Apex, the student producers of the podcast: thank you for putting your hearts into the production, and for reminding us to look for the good in every kid, even those who have made mistakes, might be hard to love, and are locked up.