SRL Connected Educator of the Month | August 2019

Sarah Oberholtzer is Free Spirit Media’s Program Coordinator for the FSM News South after-school program at Gary Comer Youth Center on the south side of Chicago. While studying Radio, Television & Film at Northwestern University, Sarah began leading programs for youth interested in digital media and social justice. Free Spirit Media is working on building a supportive community invested in addressing systemic injustice.

What is your teaching philosophy when it comes to storytelling?

I tell my students that storytelling has the capability to shape common understandings of issues. Since it is also a tool of communication, I believe that it is important to help our students discover what they want to communicate to a wider audience. There is a large void of youth voices recognized by the larger society, so I encourage my students to create content that fills a void in the media landscape specific to them and their interests.

How can student journalism help promote a greater understanding of the world?

Like I mentioned before, adultism creates this reality where adults view anyone less than 18 years of age as less qualified to speak. As a result, sincere and high caliber student journalism can shift that view, validating society’s need to hear the opinions of youth. We need student journalism so that our youth’s unique and imaginative understandings of the world come to light.

How can we get youth more interested in the news?

I think youth communicate very specific to their generation and life circumstances. Specifying what that form of communication looks like will be vital to sharing newsworthy information with them. PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs is also a great tool for getting youth engaged with the news. Students will tell stories in a way that makes sense to them and their peers will notice and listen. We shouldn’t shy away from opportunities to share our student’s work with the general population and SRL is a tool to do that.

What would life look like without public media?

Local issues would not receive the specificity and care that they need when broadcasted to their local audiences. Secondly, we would see a rise in narrow views sponsored by large private entities. Many people have specific views and that’s ok, but without public media, we would hear less of a variety of these ideas and educational content. Lastly, we might also feel like there are fewer representations of the world around us that are by and for the people who care about the world around them.

What do you hope to accomplish with SRL?

I hope to help illuminate my students’ specific ideas and understandings of the world. I teach students on the south side of Chicago and most of the news that I hear about this area does not come from the youth experiencing their lives here every day. With constant reinforcement and skill-building, I hope to most importantly show my students that their ideas are worthy of being heard, so they should never shy from valuing their voice. Ever.