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HomeEducationA Mississippi teen's podcast unpacks how the Jackson water disaster impacts schooling

A Mississippi teen’s podcast unpacks how the Jackson water disaster impacts schooling


Within the college’s sun-filled foyer, summer-school college students decrease a home made rope over a balcony. Others watch or conduct experiments of their very own across the staircase. Mounted on one classroom door are posters in Russian, one in all not less than 5 languages college students right here can be taught.

The college is one thing of a surprise, as is Georgianna.

A rising senior, she is soft-spoken, with glasses and hair in braids that cling to the corners of her broad smile. We meet her within the foyer, amidst the chaos, alongside together with her English trainer, Thomas Easterling, who assigned the podcast as a part of his composition class.

Georgianna poses together with her English trainer, Thomas Easterling, who assigned the podcast contest as a part of his composition class. (Imani Khayyam for NPR)

“The thought was, they should know their hometowns higher,” Easterling says of the project in his College Composition class. “Since I’ve college students from throughout Mississippi, they did analysis on the elements of their hometown that gave them a way of place.”

Georgianna grew up south of Jackson and struggled, at first, to choose a topic. Then she talked about the water disaster, which has troubled Jackson for yearswhereas texting with a pal from out of state.

“She lives in Georgia,” Georgianna remembers. “I texted her, and she or he was like, ‘What’s that?’ Like, she didn’t find out about it. I used to be like, actually shocked.”

We stroll to Easterling’s classroom, the place Georgianna heads to her traditional desk, within the again nook, and begins explaining how she went about making her podcast.

“I sort of had a imaginative and prescient in my head. I spend a whole lot of time in my head, really, so it wasn’t that onerous,” she says, smiling.

That’s Georgianna – disarmingly trustworthy. Whereas most of Easterling’s college students labored in pairs – one writing, one producing – Georgianna did each, alone. Although she admits: She didn’t really know the right way to make a podcast.

“I don’t take heed to podcasts,” she says, “they’re, like, actually boring.”

However as soon as she settled on the Jackson water disaster, and particularly, on her cousin Mariah’s expertise of it, Georgianna had one thing simply as highly effective as expertise.

She had objective.

“No water comes from the tap”

NPR judges beloved Georgianna’s entry as a result of she took on a serious story in her group, carried out in-depth interviews – and made wonderful use of sound.

After being woke up by that blaring alarm clock, “Mariah begins her day by going to the lavatory, to verify if her water strain is working earlier than preparing for varsity,” Georgianna narrates at first of her podcast. “No water comes from the tap.”

When Mariah seems to be for a bottle of water, she finds none. Welcome to Jackson in January, 2023.

Georgianna’s podcast is about a number of powerful days in January, when low water strain throughout the town hit households and faculties laborious.

Georgianna McKenny wins the highschool award in NPR’s fifth-annual Pupil Podcast Problem. (Imani Khayyam for NPR)

For 2 days early within the month, all Jackson Public Colleges went digital as a result of little to no water strain in faculties made it tough to organize meals and flush bathrooms, Georgianna stories. Even after college students returned for in-person studying, low water strain remained a problem.

“One thing as simple as utilizing the lavatory has change into tough,” Georgianna narrates, below the sound of a flushing rest room.

“They ended up shutting down a few of the loos” as a result of the bathrooms might now not be flushed, says Mariah, Georgianna’s cousin, who remembers one significantly uncomfortable day.

“Class was not my essential focus,” Mariah says. “I couldn’t do the rest apart from maintain it.”

Georgianna additionally interviewed an administrator with Jackson Public Colleges, who agreed to debate the disaster so long as Georgianna promised to not use her title.

As a result of water strain continued to range from college to high school, as an alternative of returning to digital studying, the district typically despatched college students from one college to a different.

“There have been occasions when another excessive faculties relocated a grade stage to our campus, which additionally made for further adjustment to the school rooms,” the administrator says within the podcast. “Lecturers weren’t capable of be within the lecture rooms they’re often assigned to. College students weren’t reporting to the world the place they have been assigned. So it simply made for a really unpredictable circumstance.”

Mariah tells NPR, in a follow-up interview in downtown Jackson, that her college was a type of that ended up internet hosting much more college students. “Generally the classroom can be packed. And simply think about the lunchroom, as a result of our lunchroom is admittedly not that large.”

The college administrator instructed Georgianna, the water issues even affected what college students got to eat. If there was sufficient water strain, the cafeteria might put together full, sizzling meals. If not: sack lunches.

Mariah, Georgianna’s cousin, was not a fan. “Think about getting turkey and ham-and-cheese sandwiches for seven days straight. It felt like we have been in jail.”

The excellent news is, this was again in January. Jackson Public Colleges tells NPR, except a number of boil-water notices and one highschool having to return to digital studying once more in February, the district’s faculties operated largely as traditional for the remainder of the college 12 months.

As for Georgianna, she admits one of many hardest issues about creating her podcast wasn’t the reporting itself; it was listening to the sound of her personal voice.

The day Easterling performed her project for the category, Georgianna remembers, “I requested, ‘Can I please depart the classroom while you play it?’ As a result of I couldn’t stand it.”

Easterling agreed, so long as she agreed to return again for her classmates’ critique.

Now, in profitable NPR’s Pupil Podcast Problem, Georgianna McKenny is getting precisely what she wished: A platform to sound the alarm on behalf of the youngsters of Jackson.

To take heed to Georgianna’s podcast, click on here.


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