PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) selects hosts for new season of On Our Minds

Arlington, Va.—Following the success of its inaugural season, PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs (SRL) has begun production of a second season of On Our Minds and selected two, new teen hosts for the podcast about youth mental health.

On Our Minds with Matt & Faiza will be hosted by 17 year-old high school junior Matt Suescun of Wyckoff, New Jersey and 16 year-old high school junior Faiza Ashar of Baltimore, Maryland.

The second season of the podcast will continue exploring the biggest mental health challenges young people face, including some new topics such as eating disorders, grief and the pressure to be perfect in school.

“I want this podcast to become an educational and empowering resource for students who are struggling with their mental health,” says Faiza about her hopes for the new season. “I ultimately want this podcast to be a beacon of support.”

“[M]y mental health journey began with finding people who shared similar struggles and made me feel heard,” Matt shared. “As a host, I hope that I can be that person for others.”

Among the themes covered last year—social isolation, anxiety, depression, and the impact of racism—On Our Minds with Matt & Faiza will again include solutions-oriented conversations with mental health experts. 

New themes include eating disorders, grief from losing loved ones, the stress of performance, perfectionism, LGBTQ+ experiences, growing up in an immigrant family, fear of missing out and other peer pressures, the middle school experience, and drugs and alcohol. 

The core purpose of On Our Minds with Matt & Faiza will again focus on showcasing authentic stories about the teenage experience—to connect, educate, and inspire listeners of all ages.

“The podcast medium is unique and has enabled students to genuinely grapple with their feelings and experiences, without the fear of a camera,” says Briget Ganske, SRL’s Youth Media Producer who led SRL’s first-ever podcast. “And for listeners, it’s an intimate experience. You can press play, get settled or take a walkand just listen.”

Building on SRL’s success in covering mental health topics, the podcast is being produced using stories that students pitched through a mental health podcast curriculum for Mental Health Awareness Month.

“Teenagers and their families need information about what to look for and how to help, since more than 75% of mental health conditions start before the age of 24,says Leah Clapman, SRL founder and managing editor of education for the PBS NewsHour. “Statistics and dire warnings are deflating—we’re relying on the power of our teen media network to create paths towards understanding and empathy.”

Since 2009, SRL has supported students in telling stories about their communities and about the issues that have impacted them. 

SRL will again partner with WETA’s Well Beings, a multi-year mental health public awareness campaign that works with local PBS stations across the country to deliver local programming.

To learn more and to share this podcast with students, stay tuned for the expected launch date in May 2022, to mark Mental Health Awareness Month.

About PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs

Now in over 160 middle and high schools, Student Reporting Labs (SRL) is a national youth journalism program and public media initiative that trains teenagers across the country to produce stories that highlight the achievements, challenges, and reality of today’s youth. SRL creates transformative educational experiences through video journalism that inspire students to find their voice and engage in their communities. Since 2009, SRL youth media producers have helped students place over 100 video news reports on PBS NewsHour’s nightly broadcast and more on local media outlets. Visit www.studentreportinglabs.org to learn more.

About PBS NewsHour

For more than 40 years, millions of Americans and citizens of the world have turned to the PBS NewsHour for the solid, reliable reporting that has made it one of the most trusted news programs on television. PBS NewsHour is a production of NewsHour Productions LLC, a wholly-owned non-profit subsidiary of WETA Washington, DC, in association with WNET in New York. More information on PBS NewsHour is available at www.pbs.org/newshour. On social media, visit PBS NewsHour on Facebook or follow NewsHour on Twitter

About Well Beings

The Well Beings campaign addresses the critical health needs of Americans through broadcast content, original digital content, and impactful local events. The multi-year campaign, created by WETA Washington, D.C., brings together partners from across the country, including patients, families, caregivers, teachers, medical and mental health professionals, social service agencies, private foundations, filmmakers, corporations and media sponsors, to create awareness and resources for better health for all. For more information, visit https://wellbeings.org

About WETA

Founded in 1961, the Washington Educational Telecommunications Association (WETA) is the leading public broadcasting station in the nation’s capital, serving Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia with educational, cultural, news and public affairs programs and services. WETA hosts the production of the PBS NewsHour, a classical music radio station, and programming that focuses on the United Kingdom. Learn more at https://weta.org


Media Contact

Marcus Markle, SRL Communications