I interviewed Juan from ZUMIX, who is a senior attending East Boston High School. Juan has been at ZUMIX for the past couple years, during which he has been in several of the youth programs: Voces, Rock Ed, and Radio. Each of the programs has added to his knowledge of music and sound production; Voces was focused on singing and Rock Ed involved learning the electric bass as part of a rock ensemble. Radio, which he is currently in, has taught Juan how to use editing software to create polished radio segments for broadcasting on ZUMIX’s 94.9 FM channel.
As part of Radio, Juan and the other students in the class have been conducting interviews of East Boston residents affected by gentrification. Juan had been unaware of the magnitude of the problem before Radio; interviewing residents who have been summarily and unlawfully evicted by landlords has given him immediate insight on the circumstances of those around him, especially fellow students at East Boston High School. Juan plans to continue to conduct interviews as part of his work in the Radio program, and hopes to both learn more about gentrification and to spread awareness on how it is harming his neighborhood.
When asked to sum up his experiences at ZUMIX, Juan simply exclaimed “I love it!” He attributes this response to the people there, especially the teachers of the programs that he’s been in. After Juan graduates this year, he will continue to use the skills that he’s learned at ZUMIX, first at his anticipated job as a receptionist, and eventually at his dream career as a radio interviewer.
My interview was with Lisa Lozano, the president of a MIT student group called Class Awareness, Support, and Equality (CASE). Lisa and other students founded CASE last semester to address problems that they saw affecting peers from low-income backgrounds. For example, while many students receive financial aid, some still struggle to make ends meet due to the high cost of living in the Boston area. Others send remittances to family members to mitigate the burden of medical needs, leaving little for themselves. CASE has hosted a series of forums to raise awareness of these issues; they have also worked to connect students in need with sources of Techcash cards.
Lisa identified bureaucracy and the Institute’s hesitancy to change to be main barriers in her work. Although many student services have Techcash cards available for students, such support is unofficial and exists in an area of uncertain legality. The same sort of snag was encountered when CASE attempted to publicize their program for matching families of graduating students with faculty willing to provide housing during commencement; CASE was told that until approval was cleared with the many contractors that run MIT’s dorms, they would not be able to contact students using official mailing lists.
While Lisa is graduating soon, she hopes that CASE will gain enough momentum for its work to be continued by younger members. Their website can be found at https://www.studentsonthecase.com/
Audio file of interview can be found here.
Link to hypothetical headline here.
I’m Hairuo Guo, a senior in Course 6-3 (computer science) and Comparative Media Studies. My specific interests in these two fields were originally somewhat distinct – I’m involved in AI research for the former and have been focused on civic media/technology policy for the latter. What I find extremely exciting (and somewhat unsettling) is how rapidly those two areas are beginning to converge, forcing engineers and data scientists to confront problems ranging from those involving normative ethics (e.g., how should self-driving cars deal with the trolley problem?) to structural bias (e.g., with the spread of machine learning, how do we ensure that programs don’t learn to be prejudiced due to biased training data?). This semester I’ve been trying to become more involved with activist groups, something that a thoroughly enervating research project has prevented me from doing for the past couple years. I spend my spare time getting almost halfway through books, taking photographs, writing, having conversations with cats, and obsessing over my latest media artifact(s) of fascination (currently everything in the Buffyverse).
An example of youth activism that I find to be inspiring is the Harry Potter Alliance, a nonprofit organization driven by Harry Potter fans (many of whom are youth) that has tackled numerous issues ranging from mental health to LGBTQ+ rights to net neutrality. The effectiveness of HPA is amazing considering that it was founded on a fandom – I think that there are many lessons to be learned from how it has harnessed this (literal) collective interest and used it for civic engagement.