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Like many teenagers, Sonakshi Srivastava and Brayden Parsons are avid podcast listeners. And, also like many of their peers, the duo is passionate about social justice issues. That combination of interests fueled the high school seniors—from Aurora and Parker, respectively—to join Generation Collaboration: a new youth-led podcast produced by local organizations Colorado Young Leaders and Youth on Record, hosting conversations between students of different ages and backgrounds to encourage intergenerational cooperation and change.
Though Srivastava and Parsons will only host the show until they graduate high school in spring 2023, they cover issues like criminal justice reform, equity in the classroom, and diversity and inclusion in higher education. The monthly podcast, which launched in spring 2022, was made possible by youth development organizations Colorado Young Leaders, a program that helps teens develop leadership skills, and Youth on Record—a nonprofit that empowers roughly 3,000 students from some of Colorado’s most vulnerable communities through music and podcasting.
“There’s a lot that youth want to say, but they’re not being truly listened to or heard,” says Lauren Steavpack, program director at Colorado Young Leaders.
David Ladon, executive producer at Youth on Record, recognized Steavpack’s concerns and helped conceptualize the idea behind Generation Collaboration, which made its debut in April and comprises six episodes to date. “The thing that’s been most important for me is working collaboratively with Colorado Young Leaders,” Ladon says. “Both of our organizations serve youth in different but meaningful ways. Being able to channel our energies towards a common goal feels both natural and like it will have longevity.”
That’s when Generation Collaboration was born. As hosts, Srivastava and Parsons guide listeners through various issues facing Colorado youth. The most recent episode, released on October 19, dives into generational change as Srivastava and Parsons are joined by Ryan Heckman, chairman of leadership nonprofit CiviCO, Nicole Mahobian, founder of Colorado Young Leaders, and Kerrie Joy, a local artist and educator.
“Coming onto the podcast has been such a cool experience because we get to share stories not only with people in the community but people in our state and beyond,” Srivastava says. “We’re able to create a safe environment for a youth-centered space to discuss topics that are important to us.”
Another episode released on September 14 dives into diversity and inclusion efforts in higher education. Guests Mia Payne and Xavier Ada, both undergraduate college students at the University of Denver, speak to the lack of diversity at their school, how it has affected their experience, and what the community can do better.
“I view stories as motivators and agents for change; being able to highlight those stories throughout Colorado is so powerful, and I’m glad that Generation Collaboration is letting those stories be heard,” Parsons says. “No matter where you’re from, your ideas, beliefs, or your age, Generation Collaboration is for everyone.”
Srivastava and Parsons aren’t the only ones gaining valuable skills through hosting the podcast, which is recorded out of Youth On Record’s La Alma Lincoln Park studio. Three recent episodes of the show were engineered by another recent graduate, Devonte Parker, who is now a production intern at Youth on Record. Parker attended Denver Public Schools’ Northeast Early College and is now a paid intern for the program, working on the back end of the podcast to construct each episode.
“I’ve always wanted to be behind the boards,” Parker says. “And now that I’m doing it? I think I’m headed in the right direction.”
While listeners can expect a few more episodes from the current season of the show, Srivastava and Parsons hope that the podcast will continue long after they graduate next spring. Youth on Record and Colorado Young Leaders hope to find new hosts as the show progresses to continue to amplify important conversations between Colorado youth.
“We all come from different backgrounds and have our own personal experiences,” Srivastava says. “If even one person out there gets something out of the stories we share, that’s what matters most.”