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Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: The Impact of Partnerships and Student Employees

This year, Washington Sea Grant and DO-IT partnered – both groups are DO-IT students and WA Sea Grant provided content for the DO-IT Scholars program. DO-IT’s NNL provides hands-on experiences in neuroscience disciplines, networking opportunities and resources to high school and early postsecondary students identified as “neurodiverse” learners.

Washington Sea Grant typically offers NOAA Science Camp, a summer program that takes place each July to offer hands-on science learning opportunities for middle and high school students, as well as other programming for K-12 students and the public.


Maile Sullivan (she/her) – WA Sea Grant, Education Coordinator. Maile’s goal is translating science and research about ocean & coastal systems to a broader audience, with hope it can be used by the community. Maile focuses on K-12 outreach, including NOAA Science Camp and Orca Bowl. Both programs have been on hiatus due to COVID, which has opened up creative new opportunities like this partnership. Fun fact, Maile started as a student assistant (“an Anita”) in 2006!
Tami Tidwell (she/her) – DO-IT, Program Director. Tami wears many hats: she directs the DO-IT Scholars program (a year-round, multi-year program with a summer session) and the Neuroscience for Neurodiverse Learners program (primarily a summer, multi-year program with some school-year elements). This is Tami’s 20th year at UW!
Anita Wray (she/her) – Education Student Assistant at WA Sea Grant. Anita is currently completing her Masters in Aquatic & Fisheries Sciences and facilitated most of the NOAA/DO-IT summer program 2021 and 2022. She is “Maile’s right (and left!) hand woman.”
Piper Hawley (they/them) – Program Assistant at DO-IT. Piper is a sophomore at Western Washington University, focusing on neuroscience with an intention to one day pursue a PhD. They work on multiple projects with Tami. Piper was an NNL participant in 2020, before becoming a peer leader in 2021 and finally staff in 2022.

The unique partnership between DO-IT NNL and Washington Sea Grant has allowed for both programs to reveal both the great benefits and challenges of integrating the two programs for their students.

DO-IT is a cohorted program with around 17-20 Scholars each year joining the DO-IT Scholars Program. Students are invited to return annually until they leave for college and are then invited to come back as mentors and/or leaders for the new cohorts. Around 65 DO-IT Scholars (Scholars and mentors) and 30 NNL students participated in the summer of 2022.

As for WA Sea grant, NOAA Science Camp had been seeing about 120 students per summer participating in their 2 week program. Since 2020 and pandemic pivots to their new programming, NOAA’s attendees has skyrocketed to over 600 participants who join through webinars. Their new hybrid model allows for more students not from the immediate area to participate and not be as geographically dependent with their programming. Another strategy, as see, is to branch out and partner with other programs!

From Friendship to Partnership

How did this partnership come to be?

“It was the perfect storm of COVID that created a gap that allowed for this partnership to happen” we gained some amazing experiences from it, as well as the youth who hopefully benefitted from the programs partnering.” – Anita

Tami and Maile partnered because of their existing friendship from the Summer Programs Planning (SPP) meetings hosted by OYPC and participation on the Summer Programs Planning steering committee. During the SPP meetings, Tami and Maile had a very general idea of what one another did in their positions, but hadn’t explored what kind of partnership could be possible.

Tami and Maile highlighted the long process of “recreating” their programs and the process of bringing in new ideas while reworking old models because of the pandemic. After summer 2021 programming, it became clear that reaching out to peer programs would help bring new perspective and structure to the future of youth programming.

DO-IT knew they had to pivot to online work – one of their partners (Rooted in Rights) was ready to go virtual while other partners were bowing out. During the brainstorming process of programming, Maile and Tami completed one another with Maile saying “I need to do programming” (“I have the scientists!”) and Tami saying “I need to plug in programming” (“I need the scientists!”).

The opportunity to work with one another was special and new for both the students and staff. Maile and Tami have learned from each other’s programs and have learned how to look at their own programs with a different perspective while incorporating new ideas that might have never been possible before without this partnership.

“There’s never going to be a moment where you have 20 students of different disabilities, so that opportunity is a unique one – and being able to spend as much time – as Maile got to spend time with the students – is so unique. It allows you to learn and change and evolve in a way that is hard to do theoretically, but it does change your program forever.” – Tami

WA Sea Grant and DO-IT have shared their expertise to help grow and better their programs so students can feel welcomed and comfortable.

The Future of Partnerships for the Youth at UW Community

What’s next for these two programs? With the success of this partnership, we wonder if this will evolve into something more, or will it continue in the same format as this year.

“If you would have asked us 3 years ago that we were going to be doing 3 summers online, we would think you were out of your mind, so we just don’t know what next year is going to look like. We will hopefully continue working together in the same similar format, but if it is not, I hope that we will continue to offer programming from WA Sea Grant and I know that will stay the same, in one shape or form.” – Tami

WA Sea Grant and DO-IT have adapted for 3 years to make sure their students are receiving the best programming and access to resources to make for an engaging and exciting summer. Without knowing what the future holds, programming has been difficult to predict, but with diligent planning and experience in adapting to the unknown, the possibilities to create something new to strengthen programming year after year remains achievable.

“We will be keeping an eye out for opportunities that are presented to us knowing that we have some capacity to partner at this level of programming and we just have to make it work for whatever scenario we are in…the spirit to continue to work together is there for sure. We would love to continue to partner [with DO-IT] and what that looks like is a big question mark with what the future holds.” – Maile

Tami replies to this sentiment about the hopes of continuing this thriving partnership, saying, “We will hopefully continue working together in the same similar format, but if its not, I hope that we will continue to offer programming from WA Sea Grant and I know that will stay the same, in one shape or form.”

Collaborating with Fellow Programs

WA Sea Grant and DO-IT are great examples and inspiration for us in the Youth at UW Network to to use one another as a resource and to collaborate as a team to accomplish new visions and goals. We wonder how OYPC and program directors can encourage one another to think creatively and create these opportunities for themselves. Maile explained that right now funders seem to be more open to different “deliverables” and that “as long as you’re serving relatively the same audience (serving youth and having aligned missions)…go for it!”

These partnerships are born when that “nudge” and the question of “what could be done and created” comes along. Incentives are big and finding the right connecting points to match with another program can help with creating a foundation to a partnership. Some incentives include a shared target audience, shared content goals (STEM, Sports, etc.), shared programming venue or location and even shared transportation needs.

During the OYPC SPP meetings – directors see the amazing programs other directors run, but it’s hard to see how you, specifically, may fit into that. When we, as a community, allow for conversation, friendship and curiosity to form among our network, we begin to dream together about the possible programming that our youth can experience.

“If nothing else, what we would like to take from this experience is sort of the lessons that we have learned around developing and operating programming to a very diverse audience of learners – how can we implement that in our own programming? Certainly when we are back in the field of NOAA science camp I know at a minimum that I have Tami and DO-IT as a resource to figure out what we need to do to shift our programming so that it can be more accessible in addition to hopefully continuing partnering in programming.” – Maile

Collaborating with Students

We have focused on how programs can collaborate amongst each other to build new programming and strengthen their current ones. OYPC experienced, first hand, the impact of Anita and Piper, as student employees, on their programs.

How can programs utilize student employees, interns, and student volunteers to help evolve the mentorship and peer model aspect that allows many of these youth programs to thrive?

Piper’s and Anita’s enthusiasm for youth programming shines through their teaching model and interactions with students. It is obvious that these two are dedicated to educating the youth and helping the future generations learn and grow within the subjects they are, too, so passionate about. Not only do Piper and Anita support programming and teaching behind the scenes, but they also lead activities and exercises during the session making students feel more comfortable engaging with the class. By being both peers and facilitators, Piper and Anita help move conversation and discussion along by monitoring the chat box, reacting vocally or through Zoom icons, and always giving the appropriate time and space for students to react with their own thoughts.

Anita and Piper have had a great impact on the students and the program directors. Both students heavily support Maile and Tami, bringing in their strengths and expertise to continuously help improve and evolve what is already being done. With their different perspectives, it’s allowed for the two programs to even have this partnership to begin with! For example, Anita’s background and previous experience working in camps allowed Tami and Maile to move forward with developing new programming with confidence.

“My favorite part is when you’re developing a lesson and you finally see the excitement and you see it click with the students – it’s harder in a virtual space to get that – but when on the day OYPC came and observed, you see students mouths drop and faces come closer to the screen, those tiny little moments were so exciting because it showed that students were staying engaged and, on the teacher’s end, a check that we did it! We created something that was engaging, students were involved and they were excited about it!” – Anita

As the program assistant for DO-IT NNL, and also being a former program participant, Piper is able to relate and model to students during their sessions. Piper is currently working on a writing piece that highlights how folks are able to phrase questions in sessions and interact with people with disabilities – a testament to the impact of bringing students to the staffing team. Program leadership and staff learn from student employees just as much as they learn from them!

“I’ve learned a lot from the students and getting to build that connection is really rewarding…One thing I’ve found great about online programming is that we can do a lot of the behind the scenes work quietly and not as intrusive to the students – in person, you have to try really hard to make it seem like you aren’t working in a million directions all at once because you want the students to have a good time. Working with my team, everyone can seamlessly hop in and change roles. We connect well together and the DO-IT staff allows us to be flexible, it’s one of my favorite things about my job” – Piper

Learning from the Students

Youth programming is all about the students. The hard work that program directors and program staff members put into their sessions is to make sure their youth are receiving the education and fun they deserve over the summer.

While it may seem more obvious that youth are the ones learning from us during these sessions, we realize that we can learn greatly from our youth as well.

Tami shares with us what she has learned from youth through DO-IT scholars, saying, “They may be youth, but they are future adults. They have so much potential and something to contribute… It’s easy to make assumptions [during virtual sessions] – like that a camera off means someone isn’t engaged – but 9/10 times that’s not true. Everyone’s a human. If we give people the benefit of the doubt, they tend to live up to that.”

Maile’s job as a hands-on science educator has had many challenges since adjusting due to COVID. Since recreating NOAA Science Camp, she’s had to learn what engagement looks like within her sessions and how to adapt to the new circumstances. This was a really good lesson for engaging with the public at WA Sea Grant, “you never know how they learn, where they’re coming from… but teaching is often really prescribed. Re-learning what engagement can look like when you connect in a new and different way.”

Whether we are on the beach learning about the rocky intertidal zone over Zoom, or in a Zoom call learning about how to prepare for college – how we choose to engage with each other does not have to interfere with what we are learning.

The teams behind WA Sea Grant and DO-IT have shown us the possibilities that can come out of persevering to push the boundaries of youth programming. By partnering together to provide new and meaningful content for students, the two programs are carving out a new path for programs to find opportunities to pursue together.

A BIG THANK YOU to the WA Sea Grant and DO-IT team for taking the time out of their busy lives to share their stories with all of us as a part of Youth at UW! We thank them for continuing to be role models for all us pursuing the mission of developing strong, high quality programming through education and conversation.

Students for the Day: OYPC Experiences Summer Sessions with DO-IT and Washington Sea Grant Partnership

Washington Sea Grant

So, what is it actually like to participate in a summer youth program?

OYPC got to join in on two virtual sessions this summer: one by Washington Sea Grant for DO-IT Scholars and one session with DO-IT Neuroscience for Neurodiverse Learners to learn first hand what it’s like to be a student participating in youth programming! Because DO-IT and WA Sea Grant are in partnership this year, both groups are DO-IT students and WA Sea Grant provided content for the DO-IT Scholars program.

In our session with WA Sea Grant, we got a tour of the rocky intertidal zone on the north end of Vashon Island with marine ecologist Jeff Adams.

As we all began to shuffle into the Zoom room, we were warmly greeted by the entire Washington Sea Grant team, Maile, Anita, and Lisa, as well as Alexis and Angela who are DO-IT Ambassadors.

Anita kicked off the exciting tour session by sharing the community contract and highlighting the agreements and expectations students created for one another. Community agreements allow students and staff to hold one another accountable to maintain a respectful, safe and comfortable class environment for everyone.

After the community contract recap, we got right into preparing to go on our virtual tour of Vashon Island’s coastline! Students were given links to rocky intertidal notes and a beach guide to prepare us for what we will be talking about and seeing during our tour.

Jeff joined us on the Zoom call right from the beach. Jeff’s personable approach in showing students the wildlife while also educating us through conversation made this tour engaging, interactive and most importantly, fun!

We got to see so many different organisms that many of us may not see or know about when visiting the same beaches ourselves. We got to see moon snails, sea stars, ship worms and so much more – all in real time with Jeff, and all via his phone!

Lisa, Maile and Anita acted as the facilitators for the sessions, prompting participation from the students, sharing resources and relaying questions to Jeff.

The session wrapped up with a recap allowing us to circle back to group conversations to share what we learned. We jotted down what we learned in a shared document and got to read what our peers learned as well. This served as a great way to capture information and check for comprehension with students, as well as providing an easy way to engage in an online environment.

What a great way to spend a morning. Thanks for an engaging and fun session, Jeff and the Washington Sea Grant team!

DO-IT Neuroscience for Neurodiverse Learners (NNL)

Our second sample session began with a fun question – “What are you drinking?” – to get our brains awake and ready to learn. In this session, Bree Callahan, the UW’s ADA Coordinator, spoke about accessibility and accommodations in college.

After introductions from Bree, we got into announcements and were reminded of our group norms, the chat function and Zoom icons. (We especially loved the use of emoji in the Zoom chat!) The purpose of this session was to help students feel confident about leaving high school and navigating the resources available in higher education to support them in their education. To allow Bree and the DO-IT staff to know us better, we were given interactive polls to answer anonymously.

We had a very honest conversation with Bree about the reality of college as someone who is neurodivergent. We learned that college is about independence, meaning that we have to take the lead in seeking and accepting support in our chosen institutions. It was emphasized that college is a privilege and that we are choosing to continue our education beyond what is required. Because college is not guaranteed, schools are more focused on providing equal access, but not necessarily equal success. For students with access needs, this can be a challenging switch from the K-12 environment.

Fortunately, programs like DO-IT exist to give students a taste of college-like environments that many students will experience in the future. For example, DO-IT hosts sessions in different campus spaces such as auditoriums and labs, exposing students to the campus environment and the experience of moving between locations on campus.

An important lesson learned was understanding that accommodations in college are not presented to students like a menu; accommodations are individualized based on your course of study and specific needs.

We finished the session with time to ask questions and a checklist on things to do to prepare for college and things to think about for those who might still be in the application process. With this session, students feel more confident and prepared to begin their new journeys!

Empowering the Business Leaders of our Future – Young Executives of Color

The mission of Young Executives of Color (YEOC) is to cultivate the academic and professional potential of underrepresented high school student leaders in Washington State through college preparation, powerful mentorship, and the development of real life business skills. 

YEOC is a free nine-month college pipeline program hosted by the University of Washington Foster School of Business. YEOC hosts one Saturday session each month from 8 A.M. – 5 P.M. YEOC is committed to increasing access among historically underrepresented groups, including African American, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander and Southeast Asian students. To reach these populations, YEOC focuses most of their outreach and recruitment in Tacoma, South Seattle and Eastern Washington high schools. 

The OYPC had the pleasure of interviewing Damariz, Vanessa and a current YEOC mentee about their experiences, goals and outlook within YEOC. 


Damariz Ibáñez: YEOC Program Manager

Vanessa Buenrostro: YEOC Business Operations Intern, Third year Business Student at UW Foster School of Business

YEOC Mentee: Edmonds Woodway High School Senior finishing up an Associate’s Degree through Running Start, and planning to to major in Marketing and Information Systems at the UW Foster School of Business through the Freshman Direct program

“No barrier should be the reason why our students are not getting college access and professional development” – Damariz Ibáñez

The Start – How did YEOC begin?

Years ago, Jai-Anana Elliot saw the need for programming tailored to the recruitment, admission and retention of students of color in Foster School of Business. In 2006, Elliott launched the first YEOC program with 36 students. 

Today, Damariz continues Elliott’s legacy of exposing diverse and talented students (up to 180 a year now!) to the world of business and the opportunities available to them at the Foster School or other higher education institutions.

As the program manager, Damariz oversees the entirety of the YEOC program – from recruitment, logistics and admissions to hiring mentors and planning and coordinating what each Saturday session entails. Damariz has spent the past 5 years growing and strengthening the program to where it is now, sharing that “[I] couldn’t do a lot of the work I do without all the mentors and student employees.” 

Another important member of the YEOC team is Vanessa, the business operations intern. Vanessa works closely with Damariz, mentors and volunteers to help coordinate and plan all the program sessions, manage session logistics, and oversee the volunteers. In addition, Vanessa lead YEOC’s career fair as an MiT for the 2020-2021 school year alongside the EY Program Management team, who offer sponsorship and support to YEOC.

The Importance of Mentorship at YEOC

YEOC is committed to always leading with intentionality, purpose and a community focus. Damariz explains that “Everything has a purpose in the Saturday session. YEOC doesn’t want to waste time with students who spend a whole Saturday once a month with us.” Additionally, YEOC does not sell students a dream about one day making it. YEOC is intentionally transparent and honest about the reality of being a person of color in the business world and provides the support and resources to make sure students feel prepared when they finish high school. 

Mentors and interns play one of the most important roles at YEOC because of their ability to honestly share their experiences and lead by example. Mentors and interns prove to mentees that representation does exist and that young students of color have a college-aged peer to look up to. Mentees can look up to undergraduate students like Vanessa, who are successfully navigating college and internship experiences, and see that these corporate opportunities are just as accessible and possible to them: as Damariz says, “Mentors are living breathing examples that mentees can do it too!”

There are currently 17 undergraduate mentors who help lead lectures for each Saturday session. Mentors are assigned to lead sessions based on their major; for example, last month’s topic was Finance, so Finance majors took the lead in presenting. Each mentor has complete autonomy for their 45 minute presentations, but beforehand, mentors connect with Foster faculty to go over their planned lecture and receive feedback and suggestions. During these sessions, mentors speak to areas they feel would be most beneficial for a high school student to get an introduction to the business subject. 

Although mentor-led lectures are an important part of a mentee’s session, this is just one eighth of the day! Each Saturday also includes a keynote speaker from YEOC’s EY partner or alumni network, a hands-on workshop related to the session’s subject, college prep to help with financial aid or college choice, and most importantly, a personal check-in. YEOC’s “real talks” at the end of each Saturday session allow mentors to check in with their mentees to get feedback about the session and to see how YEOC mentees are feeling moving forward. 

The 2021-22 cohort includes 155 students, about 8-10 students per mentor. By grouping students with an assigned mentor, it allows students to just have more intimate conversations, mentorship and community among one another in a smaller space in addition to the larger group session activities. It’s important for YEOC to make mentees know that they aren’t just a number and that each mentee’s experience is prioritized and special – YEOC goes beyond just providing resources for them. 

Mentors in YEOC go above and beyond to help their mentees feel supported every step of the way through the program. Mentors are in communication with their mentees to provide guidance and advice as mentees begin applying for internships, scholarships and colleges. Our mentee expressed that she has developed a relationship with other mentors, not just her own, broadening her community and support system at YEOC.

The Impact of YEOC and Power of Community

As these examples illustrate, YEOC recognizes the importance of building community among students – students from different backgrounds, schools and communities come together and are able to bond and understand each other when they come to YEOC. Mentees are respected and valued for their own lived experiences and perspectives, allowing YEOC to continue building an inclusive environment for all students. Additionally, YEOC makes sure to provide a space for students to provide feedback to YEOC leadership and to share their experiences so that YEOC can actually adapt the program to make sure it works for them

Community doesn’t work without the students. The better ideas always come from the mentees and mentors. It’s the students who create initiatives at YEOC – for example, the push for being inclusive to religious holidays, celebrating all cultures and identity, the push for using pronouns. We model for our students that it is not always a cold world in business. This is the standard that we expect in our space and we hope that when students walk into other spaces, they can create change so that their new communities are inclusive not just for themselves, but for everyone else coming in.” – Damariz Ibáñez

Vanessa & our YEOC mentees agree that community and the YEOC network has been the most impactful aspect of their experiences. Vanessa shares with that “as a student from Quincy, Washington, I was able to come to YEOC and see other people of color who looked like me and had similar goals as me – it was impactful for me to see the different opportunities in business that I couldn’t get in my high school, but was most impactful was seeing my mentors of similar backgrounds and age get internships and be successful in college.”

Our YEOC mentee expressed how the community has positively impacted her time over the past nine months in the program: “YEOC has been more amazing than what I have ever thought. The amount of community and mentorship that YEOC offers is absolutely incredible and I wouldn’t be where I am in terms of believing in myself and identifying my goals if it weren’t for YEOC.Additionally, she expressed how the YEOC community has allowed her to go beyond her comfort zone – she’s tried new things that she wouldn’t normally do if she didn’t have the support of her peers and mentors, something she will take away after the program ends. 

Just like their mentors, mentees are also role models for others in showing that anything is possible. Through all the adversities YEOC students face – being first generation, first to finish high school, first to learn the English language in their family – YEOC strives to recognize the hard work mentees do to support their own families through their own jobs and education and doing so with no complaints.

COVID-19 – Navigating a Pandemic 

Because community is such an integral part of YEOC, returning to the 2021-22 year with in-person programming has been a great reminder to how meaningful building relationships first hand really is. Although in-person programming is preferred, YEOC learned to adapt and leverage their resources for students during virtual programming. There was a great shift in culture when YEOC transitioned virtually during the peak of the pandemic because one of the program’s biggest assets is showing up in-person to build relationships and that community on campus. Damariz explained that “it was difficult at first to capture student engagement compared to being in-person, but now that we’re back in-person, we are seeing that eagerness and students as we begin to go back to normal.” 

While convening virtually, conversations surrounding food and housing security became a priority when checking-in with YEOC mentees. It was no longer about whether the students will show up to each session, but how they show up and making sure there are no barriers preventing them from being present.

New Opportunities & Continuing a Legacy

Moving forward, the YEOC team shared with us some new ambitions and goals to strengthen their program. In the future, YEOC hopes to have more involvement at the undergraduate level in the Foster School, allowing for more partnerships with other Foster programs. Additionally, YEOC aims to provide more formal opportunities for their alumni network to come back and mentor YEOC undergraduates when they’ve finished the program. 

With positive feedback surrounding the YEOC branding, YEOC hopes to have more universities (Washington State University, Seattle University, etc.) adopt this program statewide so more students are able to participate. Although YEOC is currently at a cap, Vanessa shared that she envisions a future where they will be able to bring on more mentors, mentors in training, volunteers and most importantly, more mentees. As the program continues to grow, our mentee shared that she hopes to one day become a mentor and contribute back to the community that believed in her so much. 

Damariz expressed her sincere awe of her mentees and how hard they work to show up and use the space that YEOC has provided them and make the most of what they learned to go back to their own communities and make change. Mentees are more than change makers: they are pillars to the community.

A BIG THANK YOU to the YEOC team for taking the time out of their busy lives to share their stories with all of us as a part of Youth at UW! We thank YEOC in continuing to uphold their mission to make professional development and college preparation accessible and inclusive for students of color in Washington. 

Learn more about YEOC’s mentors, schedule and data in 2021-2022 Mid Year Report

Inspiring a New Generation of Medical Professionals with INSIGHT

A high school program created by the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, the INSIGHT High School Program is an intensive four week high school program that introduces students to public health, biomedical research, medicine, and injury prevention. The program is open to high school students entering grades 10-12 or recently graduated and provides valuable exposure to the medical and public health fields, emphasizes social justice and highlights health disparities

The OYPC team had the opportunity to hear from Amy Muma, the Education and Training Specialist for HIPRC.

A Further Look Inside INSIGHT

A collaborative and creative space for students to learn more about public health, INSIGHT helps students understand core public health concepts through the lenses of research and social justice. Students take a deep dive into injury prevention research through various activities and have the chance to present a capstone project on Symposium Day at the end of the four week program. Each year, students are challenged to tackle a public health problem and present an analysis and proposed solution to the problem. Past topics include bike helmet use, first aid bleeding control, distracted driving prevention, and pedestrian safety. This summer, students will contribute to earthquake preparedness and response by building a walking plan with the fewest potential barriers, an approach known as BRISK (Best Route for Injury Support during an earthquaKe).

Through INSIGHT, students increase their exposure to health-related fields, injury and violence prevention research, and health equity. This unique opportunity allows students to get exposure to real local challenges and talk to professionals in the health field while meeting like minded students interested in the same field. The program also includes educational seminars and, in non-COVID times, field trips to locations including the Airlift NW helipad and the Harborview Emergency Department. Many students of the program have continued on to study a health-related field in college and some continue on to medical school. INSIGHT students have used their final symposium project as a major talking point to their college applications. 

As the only high school level injury and violence prevention program, it’s evident that the future is in good hands as INSIGHT has given students a chance to connect and gain a greater understanding of their community health systems, health disparities, and how they can contribute positive change in these areas.

Moving Past Hurdles

Leading an educational youth program is a rewarding experience, but it is no easy task – Amy shares with us that youth have a lot of questions, which is the best part, students have tons of questions and they make the INSIGHT staff better teachers. 

Amy’s favorite part about INSIGHT is getting to know all the students! Although this four week program is able to provide so much for its students, Amy shares that it’s still challenging to find the time to allow for social bonding time, especially online. 

Despite COVID’s big hit on so many in-person programs, INSIGHT has been able to adapt to an online platform allowing for more students to participate. By moving to a digital platform, INSIGHT has been able to reach more students nationwide:

We turned lemons into lemonade when COVID-19 hit so many schools with stay at home measures. We are able to transition INSIGHT to an online platform and attract students not only from the state of Washington, but throughout the US, China and Europe. Our enrollment went from 15 to 100.

By going completely online, INSIGHT has been able to make the program more personalized for each student, adding a more engaged mentoring component. Each day students meet in a “home room” with their assigned Teaching Assistant. During these daily check-ins, students are able to use this time with their TA through Zoom or Microsoft Teams to learn about the day’s agenda, answer homework Q&A and hear about upcoming social activities. Although going online has allowed for greater accessibility, Amy acknowledges that there are still challenges with maintaining online engagement.

Students are pretty used to online these days, but it takes a bit of work from the INSIGHT TAs to engage with each student. Engagement requires a bit of social interactions online. We have students from all over the US, and now they are inviting strangers to collaborate. We want to be respectful of their needs at the same time, and try to engage with them in the homeroom – polls, games and stories.

So what’s next for INSIGHT? Although adapting to being an all remote program has been rewarding in increasing their admissions, Amy explains that Zoom classrooms create a silo learning environment and we want to change this for a more engaging experience.Amy intends to strengthen the socializing aspect of the program by adding more opportunities, such as having games and discussions in homerooms.

Hearing from the Youth of INSIGHT

INSIGHT has given students the chance to explore their curiosity and passion in the medical field. Previous INSIGHT students share their experience in the proram:

I’m a rising junior who had the opportunity to attend this year’s High School INSIGHT program. I would just like to thank you for providing us with a chance to learn about the public health field. Over the summer, the seminars have broadened my perspective on the medical field – it has helped me understand that it is an interconnected field between different specializations and that there are many ways in which we can make an impact. Getting to work with my peers on publishing a policy brief as professional epidemiologists would has been a wonderful chance to understand the work of a professional.

INSIGHT provides a network where students can connect with researchers and medical professions to follow-up with more opportunities to explore, even after the program ends. INSIGHT builds community by fostering relationships between professionals and students and is committed to supporting past and present students succeed in their own endeavors. One student shares about the opportunity of getting to work alongside (Dr. Curatolo), Michele Curatolo, MD, PhD, Professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Washington research pain management after being connected through Dr. Curatolo, a seminar speaker of the program. 

I also just wanted to express a sincere thank you because I never would have had this opportunity if it weren’t for INSIGHT, and I’m really grateful and excited about it! I thought it might be a long shot contacting Dr. Curatolo because he lives across the country…I’ll be able to work with Dr. Colloca and another lab member on a research project this summer/fall! I’m very excited and very grateful.

Interested in Joining? 

INSIGHT has been in operation since 2017 and typically runs during June – July. This year, the program will be online from June 27 – July 22 from 9 am to 2 pm. Applications will be open for the program March 1-June 3, 2022. Enrollment is rolling until the program is filled. This year, INSIGHT is accepting 93 students into the program and has select scholarship opportunities as well. 

Check out their website to apply for INSIGHT and to learn more information about the application process!

A BIG THANK YOU to Amy for taking the time out of her busy life to share her stories with all of us as a part of Youth at UW!

To learn more about INSIGHT, visit

Making Noise with RadioActive

Brought to us by KUOW, Seattle’s NPR news station, RadioActive is a youth program created to inspire and educate young people on the importance and impact of radio journalism. The OYPC team had the honor to interview a staff member, a mentor and program participant of RadioActive to share their insights and experiences on what building and growing RadioActive meant to them.


  • Kelsey Kupferer: RadioActive Program Producer since 2019
  • Kyle Norris: RadioActive Mentor since 2018
  • Youth Participant: RadioActive Youth Producer since 2019, A current High School Senior who plans on studying Journalism in college


“RadioActive Youth Media is where young people discover public radio journalism and gain access to the skills, community and institutional resources that spur their growth as media makers. Through their stories, listeners of all ages gain a deeper understanding of young people whose voices are rarely heard by the greater public.”  (Source)

The StartHow did RadioActive begin and what has it become? 

RadioActive began in 2004 when high school students asked to have a voice at the radio station. Since being permanently established in 2013, the program has served over 6,000 youth and has evolved into the vibrant, fast-paced and competitive radio journalism program it is today. RadioActive has two full-time staff members (and are currently hiring one more), and they have about 20 part-time youth and adult staff members. Kyle describes the program as an “NPR boot camp for teenagers,” and breaks down “the three big buckets” of RadioActive activities:

  1. Intro to Radio Journalism Workshop – a paid multi-week summer intensive program for 12-20 youth to get exposure to what radio journalism is all about. Projects include making podcasts and radio stories.
  2. Advanced Producer’s Program – a year-round program that offers leadership development, radio production and employment opportunities to 20-30 Intro Workshop alumni yearly. This program offers another intensive multi-month radio production workshop, a speakers series, pop-up opportunities, internships with KUOW shows, and co-reporting projects with KUOW reporters.
  3. Community Workshops – workshops that prioritize partnerships with youth who are incarcerated, migrant workers, refugees and others without ready access to media platforms. These reach 500-700 young people per year at more than 25 schools and community organizations in Central and Western Washington. Community workshops range from 1-10 hours long, and can focus on one skill (i.e. interviewing) or on story production, where youth make podcasts in small groups.

The Now Building community & Caring for the whole youth

RadioActive strives to build meaningful relationships between the KUOW community and its youth through providing mentorship, resources and a safe and inclusive environment for youth to grow as individuals and as journalists. RadioActive prioritizes the significance of validation and value when interacting and instructing their youth. Additionally, RadioActive provides a space where youth learn how to grow community among each other. Our youth interviewee shared that “there is so much love and respect for everyone there” and described how he felt esteemed as a contributing member to KUOW rather than just another student. 

How have you seen your program impact the lives of youth/you/the community? Why did you choose this program?

Participant: As a freshman, I didn’t have much interest in [journalism]. I thought, ‘I have no plans over the summer, I might as well give it a shot’, and I was very nervous. After a week, I was excited to come back. I chose the program partly for the money and because I had nothing to do, but I fell in love with it. I’ve made new friends and I get to produce my own content. I keep coming back because I have new things to love about it….[With RadioActive] I took a big step forward in feeling confident in sharing my stories….It was a real learning experience. We were never treated like children even though we are 15-18. We are treated like coworkers – we are treated like we are responsible… We don’t like to use the word “kid”, we use the word “youth” which I appreciated. We are encouraged to try new things.

Kyle: What did I learn about youth? They have wisdom, they have lived experience, they are smart, they are open, they are kind, they are funny, they have value in terms of their lives. They can bring that to the world- those collective stories and we need that…[RadioActive] is the best thing I do, it bolsters me in times I have gone through in COVID and personally – I turn to these young people and my coworkers and their stories and it lifts me, it gives me comfort and it inspires me and I want to put my energy into it. I want to share it with more people…I think this is the best youth program in the country. There are other youth media programs, but they are not as robust as this – this is very special…

Kelsey: The impact is real. To watch some of the youth grow into professional radio producers when they came to RadioActive having never heard of public radio is so amazing and delightful. A narrative we hear often — more often than I expect — is ‘I came in knowing nothing and just looking for a fun summer job, and now I’m applying to college for journalism’…opening up that career path for young people is so cool… We don’t seek out youth who want to be journalists [for this program], we do the opposite – we seek youth who love storytelling. [These youth] then [leave the program] with a better understanding of media literacy and journalism works..

Kelsey shares that her favorite aspect of her job is just “working alongside youth to create cool stuff”- it’s as simple as that. RadioActive is not just work nor a curriculum – it’s fun, creative, challenging, innovative and meaningful.

COVID-19 & Challenges – Navigating a pandemic & addressing new problems

Pivoting from an in-person model to a fully remote environment, RadioActive has overcome adversity during the pandemic to increase accessibility to their program for youth, no matter their situation. Although the team is slowly bringing students back into the recording studio in a hybrid model, the interviewees shared with us the advantages and successes of going remote.

The biggest challenge prior to COVID-19 was commuting. Kyle and Kelsey shared examples of students commuting up to 2 hours by public transportation to come to the RadioActive studio in the U-District. Although he wished to come in person every once in a while to collaborate with peers, our youth interviewee explained that,

it almost felt natural [going remote] after a while – like we’d been doing it forever. What I didn’t expect was to still have that engagement and community online because in person it was so much easier to just hangout with someone…we didn’t quite have that, but we were still together. When I was facilitating a group with my fellow 2019 members, it was still amazing – there were still sparks. The only issue was that we didn’t have the nice recording studios – which we didn’t mind.” 

Youth members were still able to bond over their days despite the distance apart. He expressed that without the deep connections made from the beginning, the pandemic would’ve been a different experience, but because RadioActive fostered a community for students to come together so well, it felt like nothing had changed. 

As a result of the pandemic, a hybrid model will most likely be permanent since the virtual programming went so well. Kyle explained that there were no great challenges when teaching students how to report individually as it was a common practice done in the professional world of journalism. He shared how RadioActive still maintained engagement during remote learning- by checking-in. Checking-in everyday with students allows for better understanding of what each youth is feeling and going through before beginning work building empathy and connection among one another.

Youth well-being & Youth development

RadioActive’s goal is to mitigate any barriers that could prevent youth from participating in the program. For example, RadioActive provides food and snacks for all youth members as well as Orca cards and translation services. Youth well-being and development is a priority at RadioActive; they take care of one another like family, truly creating a transformative experience.

RadioActive encourages and helps youth tell their stories that they find more important and meaningful. Kyle shared with us that mentors work alongside youth to brainstorm and experiment with different storytelling techniques to capture their visions and bring it to life. RadioActive allows young journalists to explore their own topics; there is no boundary or limit to the stories that can be told.

The stories that RadioActive journalists share are personal and vulnerable – our participant shared that getting to make his stories about what he wanted to focus on was “healing” and helped with his mental health. Youth have the chance to open up difficult conversations with the community, including with their own family and friends. Our youth interviewee explains the natural challenges for youth journalists to find the courage to be able to share their stories, saying, 

A natural challenge for anyone that wants to share a story is finding the confidence to share that story…That’s the same for many other people, they have serious and deep stories they want to share whether that’s about themselves or about someone else – that’s a huge step…when you get over finding the confidence to share something – it’s really beautiful to hear someone’s voice talk about what they’ve been through or something you’ve been going through as well – it’s just amazing.” 

Even in a short piece, there are many complex layers that go into creating the story. With 18 years of experience in radio and NPR, Kyle shares that when youth are stuck during the creative process of their story, that’s when mentors come in and go – ‘try this or try that’, that’s what a lot of RadioActive is, it’s just trying stuff and putting it together in a story form. The ideas of resilience and perseverance are evident in RadioActive’s approach to youth development, teaching youth to never give up and to always keep moving, no matter the pace you’re at. 

“When we’re silent, we’re stuck; when we’re moving, we’re…something”
– Kyle Norris

In the Works – what’s next for RadioActive?

With so much accomplished in almost the past two decades, what does the future look like for RadioActive? We asked each interviewee about any changes they would like to see or new ideas that would help expand the program. 


  • Being able to increase the number of youth served, without sacrificing the depth and richness of the small-cohort experience.
  • More opportunities for youth to work on other KUOW shows, including the podcasts Seattle Now and The Record
  • Strengthening relationships and creating new partnerships with surrounding organizations in the area.
  • New smaller studios throughout the greater Seattle area so students could have more access to recording and working in person, in their own neighborhoods.
  • Adding a shuttle service for minors so those who live far can be transported safely and efficiently to the KUOW studios.

As learned from their own firsthand experience, innovation blooms from ideas and visions come to life when challenges are overcome. Although a seasoned youth program and a model program for so many, both locally and nationally, RadioActive’s desire to always be better for their youth is a testament to their commitment of helping their youth grow as both better individuals and journalists

A BIG THANK YOU to the RadioActive team for taking the time out of their busy lives to share their stories with all of us as a part of Youth at UW! Their values, work and mission is admirable and inspiring for all of us who strive to better the lives of youth. 

Youth in RadioActive tackle topics close to their hearts and that are often challenging, such as returning to school after COVID, gender norms, advocating for trans teens – To view example projects and work from youth producers @ RadioActive, visit