• Cory Minkah Montalvo

Photo Journey - Empower Community High School Recording Studio Build

Hello, YEBOhood!

In this post, we're taking you on a journey (through photos) to explore an amazing venture started by seven students at Empower Community High School (ECHS) in Aurora, Colorado.

We thrive off of authentic partnerships, and our time building with the ECHS community has been a wonderful ride. Both organizations, YEBO and ECHS, believe education is most powerful through real-world learning, and that young people exist as powerful decisions-makers who are capable of designing their own futures.

Our work is more than recording podcasts or making beats - it's about self-determination and cultivating in youth an ownership over their learning experiences.


August 2019 - Build the Team | Discover the Vision

We began the year recruiting a team of seven wacky and brilliant 9th graders at ECHS. We used podcasting to help them surface their personal narratives and build community. After a few design sessions, students developed an initial idea to create a recording studio in their school. They secured an empty room to build the studio in and a couple of tables - a blank canvas.

September/October 2019 - Design and Pitch

After exploring podcasting, the crew interviewed a community member to record their first prototype episode. They secured several in-kind donations that help to facilitate their creation, including a computer and microphones.

Following the completion of their first episode, the team began crafting their pitch for additional funds and resources to help them with building the studio. To do so, students went through a design process that supported them with surfacing the problem they were addressing through their idea, the vision for how the studio could positively impact the larger community, and elements of the studio's brand.

The team engaged in three pitch practice sessions, and then had the opportunity to make their final pitch to a group of community stakeholders. When it was all said and done, the team received an initial award of $1,500 to launch their studio (although, they secured additional funds and resources in the months to follow).

November 2019 - Phase One of Studio Build and Pitch Night Event

Students learned how to build a budget with their initial investment and began purchasing equipment and infrastructure needed for the the first phase of their studio build. In addition to developing their project management skill-sets, the crew explored the world of sonic arts and learned about acoustic treatment.

With the first layers of their studio built, students prepared a final pitch to present at the YEBO Fall Pitch Night event. Pitch Night brought together all YEBO participants (middle and high school) for an opportunity to pitch their final prototypes of their ventures to families and community stakeholders. In total, the Empower crew secured over $4,000 in grants, individual gifts, and in-kind donations.

January-March 2020 - Phase Two of Studio Build and Launch

To start the new year, the crew utilized the additional resources they secured to enhance the studio's acoustic infrastructure and add a music production workspace. Included in their additions were a beat machine, vocal booth, ceiling acoustic paneling, a couch, LED lighting, and upgraded microphones for the podcasting station.

By opening up the studio to the larger school community, the crew fulfilled their mission to provide a safe and inclusive space for their peers to process their emotions and explore their unique identities through media production. Other groups began using the space to record renditions of the Black National Anthem and create podcasts that interrogated historical/social justice events and the literature they were engaging in class, while the crew continued to welcome in community members to tell their stories on a podcast.

As a final touch the students decided to hire a local artist to help them paint a mural on the outside of the studio. Joaquin Gonzales worked with one of the team members on the design and supported the crew with starting the mural. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 quarantine went in to place a day after the students started the piece and the mural awaits their return.

Stay tuned!

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©2018 by Youth Empowerment Broadcasting Organization (YEBO).