Interview: Beverly Mire
Beverly Mire is the assistant director of education for MIT/Terrascope Youth Radio. For 13 years she was the deputy director of Youth Radio/Youth Media International and for the past five years, she has run media programs at Boston-area schools and nonprofit organizations. Ms. Mire has won numerous awards for her work, and sits on the advisory board for the Regional Media Arts Educators Consortium, the Boston youth media network.
YMR: Describe Terrascope Youth Radio and your role in the program.
Beverly Mire: Terrascope Youth Radio is an outgrowth of Terrascope, which is a program for MIT freshmen. It was and is the brainchild of our director, Ari Epstein. We are funded by the National Science Foundation, and work in partnership with Cambridge Youth Programs (CYP), the Public Radio Exchange (PRX), and the Blunt Youth Radio Project in Portland, Maine.
We primarily serve high school-aged youth from the Cambridge school system, although young people from nearby communities have also participated in our program. Our high school-aged participants come on board as interns to the radio program. Typically, they find out about us through CYP, the city of Cambridge Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, outreach activities, and, now, word-of-mouth.
Terrascope Youth Radio interns create audio features about the environment—our world, our city, our neighborhoods, our schools. Our stories are about the big issues—such as global warming—and also about everyday stories, such as how to be environmentally conscious when you shop. Because our home base is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and in close proximity to the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country, Terrascope Youth Radio interns are able to create their stories with the assistance of university research scientists who are experts in their fields.
I like to say that in my role as Assistant Director of Education, my most important duty is to make sure Terrascope Youth Radio interns are happy, have fun, learn a lot, and have the best experience possible. This goes beyond creating great radio/audio. It is just as important to me that by coming to MIT they are exposed to college life, learning that going to college is imperative and accessible.
YMR: Terrascope definitely has specific issue focus. How does this make it different from other youth radio programs?
Mire: As far as I know, Terrascope Youth Radio is the only radio project that has an environmental focus. That’s what makes us different, and I’m very proud of that. Our interns care passionately about the future of the planet, and by being exposed to top-notch scientists from MIT, Harvard, Tufts, and organizations around the country, they are learning how they can affect change on a local level.
YMR: What are some of the distribution strategies used by Terrascope?
Mire: We have a very fruitful relationship with PRX. Through PRX, we worked with New Hampshire Public Radio to create and distribute “Fresh Greens.” In Fall, 2008 we worked with Clearwater.org to create Clearwater Moments, which aired on WAMC-Albany, whose signal covers 7 states. We also periodically collaborate with the Blunt Youth Radio Project which culminates with a field trip to Portland, Maine to participate in their weekly show which is aired on WMPG-FM.As for our ongoing project, Terrascope Youth Radio features are played on the weekly show “Terravoice,” which is run by MIT students and airs on WMBR-FM. Terravoice is hosted by MIT Terrascope undergraduate students.
YMR: What are some of the benefits to the high school interns working with college kids on a college campus?
Mire: Just by being themselves, the Terrascope college and graduate staff members inspire Terrascope Youth Radio interns to look beyond high school. One college student is going for her Masters in Education at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, another is an undergrad there. The rest of the staff is made up of MIT juniors and seniors.
Some of our high school interns don’t see college as a possibility. Money is a huge barrier. In some cases they don’t like their school and can’t see staying beyond 12th grade. Some have financial pressures at home. Our college and graduate staff are more than willing to talk to the interns about these frustrations, about making the right choices around education beyond high school, and not letting money stand in the way.
We have seen our high school interns pursue more opportunities due to their exposure to Terrascope’s college and graduate mentors. Just recently, one of our interns was accepted to four universities, including Suffolk University in Boston.
YMR: Give an example of one of the summer activities that allows the high school interns to take an active, hands-on role in both community issues and radio production.
Mire: Last summer we created an audio tour for the Boston Children’s Museum that highlighted the building’s green features. At the same time, the interns assisted in the production of “Fresh Greens,” an hour-long special that was distributed through New Hampshire Public Radio and Public Radio Exchange (PRX). You can access these projects at these links: www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/about/audio_tour.html and www.nhpr.org/special/freshgreens/about
YMR: What drives your passion for the work you do?
Mire: I’m going to be very honest. People often say things like, “you must feel so good about what you’re doing.” That makes me a little nuts because I don’t think of it that way and I can’t convince them otherwise. Here’s the truth: I do it because I like it. I do it because I’m good at it. It’s no different from when I was in commercial radio (my background). I stayed at a job as long as I liked it. It has nothing to do with “feeling good” or doing “good deeds.” It has everything to do with liking where I work, and liking the people I work with. That’s what drives me.
YMR: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Mire: I’d like to ask my colleagues how we can work together effectively to get more public schools, especially “underserved” schools to adopt the best practices of successful youth media programs. It’s no secret that media as a form of expression helps even the most disinterested and dispirited student learn, and learn better. It isn’t brain surgery. It doesn’t take research. With today’s technology it isn’t even expensive. It just takes implementation. For the life of me I don’t see what’s holding them back.