How high schoolers are sharing positive stories of Black youth

Presenting Our Perspective on Philly Youth News encourages students to tell uplifting stories about Black youth in Philadelphia through multimedia storytelling.

Kaicey Baylor (left), senior journalism major and college facilitator at the POPPYN program, and Stormy Kelsey (right), senior media and communications major and college facilitator at POPPYN, discuss the program outside of Ritter Hall on Aug. 27. | HANNAH BURNS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Kaicey Baylor feels like a big sister and mentor to the students involved in Presenting Our Perspective on Philly Youth News.

POPPYN is an after school news program run by the University Community Collaborative, an organization in Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts that helps youth become leaders.

The high school students in the program use multimedia storytelling to cover the positive actions of young adults – specifically Black youth in Philadelphia – from their own perspectives. Stormy Kelsey and Baylor offer the students support with their projects.

“One of my favorite things about the program is how I am teaching high school students about journalism, what it entails…the not so glamorous side and the glamorous side,” said Baylor, a senior journalism major and a college facilitator at POPPYN.

For Kelsey, a senior communications major and POPPYN college facilitator, it’s one of the best jobs she’s ever had.

“I get to supply these kids with the tools that I did not personally have access to as a young person, such as knowledge about social justice movements,” she said.

As college facilitators, Baylor and Kelsey collaborate with students to help them record, shoot and edit about three yearly 30-to-60-minute episodes that cover topics like gentrification, foster care, social injustices, the school-to-prison pipeline and stereotypes.

“We are serious about what we do, and it’s important to us,” Baylor said. “No matter what, we want people to be questioning our work, critiquing us and taking away something from what we do.”

POPPYN was created in 2011 by several students in Philadelphia who felt the media’s attention was disproportionately focused on negative actions like loitering, flash mobs and incidents of violence committed by some of Philadelphia’s Black youth.

“We create media that focuses on the positive things, rather than the negatives,” said Barbara Ferman, founder and executive director of University Community Collaborative.

In April, POPPYN produced a cross-cultural media episode showing students from the program and members of youth organizations in South Africa asking each other questions about the African diaspora and their opinions and experiences.

POPPYN producers went to South Africa to collaborate with youth organizations like the Bafokeng Youth Centre and I Am, We Are, a South Africa-based global youth development organization. Kelsey said the misrepresentation of Africa and its citizens in the media was the motivation for the program’s 25th episode.

“Our trip to Africa was a big episode,” said Nuala Cabral, the media productions and communications manager at University Community Collaborative. “The students learned a lot and were able to connect with people from another country.”

Kelsey and Cabral accompanied the students on the trip. Kelsey said it was POPPYN’s most monumental episode.

“This trip got the students questioning certain things about the country that they never thought about before,” she added. “These questions ultimately brought the need to connect students from both Africa and the United States.”

For its work, POPPYN has received awards and recognition, including the second annual PhillyCAM IMPACT Award in 2012 and PhillyCAM’s Best Magazine Shows award in July.

“[POPPYN’s] work is getting better, and it is being recognized,” Baylor said. “It is going further than before and expanding in so many ways.”

The program airs on PhillyCam every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. on Comcast channel 66 and Verizon channel 29.

Besides providing work experience, Kelsey and Baylor said the program establishes unique relationships with the students and staff at POPPYN.

“The students come to me to talk about a range of things from personal issues to school work,” Baylor said. “I am able to give them a voice due to the fact that some of them do not have an outlet or a resource and in the end that’s what we, as a program, are giving them.”

Ferman said the relationships formed in the program put a smile on her face.

“I love everything about the program,” Ferman said. “But when I see Kaicey and Stormy connecting with the students, teaching them and being responsible, it makes me want to cry.”

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