Lily Kerlin knew that what she and Brandon Benedict were doing was something that not a lot of high school seniors have the opportunity to do. It’s not every day that you get to interview the …
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“Hear Our Voices” podcast, co-hosted by Arvada West senior Brandon Benedict and Denver South senior Lily Kerlin, can be accessed on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or PodBean. For more information on the podcast, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lily Kerlin knew that what she and Brandon Benedict were doing was something that not a lot of high school seniors have the opportunity to do.
It’s not every day that you get to interview the governor. Yet, that’s what Benedict, a senior at Arvada West High School, and Kerlin, a Denver South senior, found themselves doing last month.
“I really didn’t believe that it would happen,” Lily said. “… I didn’t know what it would be about or the direction up until that first episode, but we did a lot of research on what the `Hear Our Voices’ podcast would be.”
Brandon had a similar reaction.
“At first, I didn’t believe it,” he said after receiving that initial email about taking on a co-hosting role for a monthly podcast from Colorado Young Leaders and CiviCO. “I was a little nervous. I had never done a podcast before.”
But both teenagers are finding the platform welcoming to share their voices on topics such as resiliency, courage, empathy and more.
The podcast, which will tackle themed topics monthly, is the brainchild of Lauren Steavpack, the program director for Colorado Young Leaders. Through a partnership with CiviCO, the podcast - but more specifically Colorado Young Leaders - empowers high school student leaders throughout the state.
Having Lily and Brandon co-host the program was a no-brainer, said Steavpack, because of their desire to tell stories and their ability to amplify youth voices. And while podcasts have been the rage in recent years, CYL focused on coming up with a unique way to tell their story while reaching out to an embracing audience.
Before she got involved with CYL, Lily said that she was floundering as a freshman and sophomore, like she wasn’t making a difference. That changed in her junior year, and now, she’s using her voice for the betterment of her generation.
“Youth can especially not only make changes but be a part of a change that you want to see,” Lily said. “Brandon and I are easily telling stories that are relatable. The stories we’re telling are really engaging.”
“The main goal is the youth part of their voices,” he said. “The whole goal is to see how adults and kids can work together.”
Today’s youth are not only the future, but they’re in a position to make an impact right now, Steavpack said.
“Empowering them is allowing them to lead and shine on their own,” she said.
Like interviewing Gov. Jared Polis and Ananda Birungi, the winner of the Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medal, for the first episode. Interviewing Polis was a bit nerve-racking, they said, but once they realized he was just another person — albeit in a leadership role — that calmed the nerves a bit.
“He’s just another person on Earth, another guy in the community,” Brandon said. “He has so much power, but having him on the podcast felt cool. It was very humbling.”
“It was so nerve-racking not only because he’s the governor, but I feel like, especially with any adult in a position of power, that it’s nerve-racking for youth to have a conversation with them,” she said. “But after we did the interview, we were like we killed that. It was not as bad as we thought. There’s the politician side of him, but we got to listening to him a little bit more. It was fun to learn a little bit about his life. I think we got a different perspective than an adult would get, a different energy.”
Brandon Benedict and Lily Kerlin hope that the “Hear Our Voices” podcast will make a difference in the world around them and that young voices, like theirs, will be heard for years to follow. If the first episode is any indication, they’re well on their way to doing just that.
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