The Other 60 Percent

Using radio to reach Spanish-speaking families

Psychotherapist Frank Clavijo gestured as he spoke about the sometimes-dangerous dynamics of teen dating from a small second-floor radio studio not far from Mile High Stadium. Often, he explained in Spanish, adolescent girls don’t realize they are being emotionally abused by a boyfriend’s cutting comments: “You’re stupid, you’re ugly, you’re fat.”

Dr. Frank Clavijo (in blue) speaks on Educa about teen dating.

While Clavijo, a native of Peru, spoke into the fat black microphone, a Facebook comment appeared from listener Martha Porras. The mother of daughters, she thanked the show for tackling the topic, one she’d proposed a few months before. It was a small moment of affirmation for the architects of Educa Radio, a Spanish-language radio program created by Denver Public Schools to reach Spanish-speaking parents.

“It’s really been humbling to hear back from parents,” said Educa host Salvador Carrera, director of the district’s Multicultural Outreach Office. “We get lots of thank yous.”

Launched in 2009, and reformatted in 2011, the hour-long program features experts like Clavijo who talk about topics such as health, immigration, English-language acquisition, and student services. There are also segments featuring profiles of DPS schools that have both large Hispanic populations and high academic achievement.

Educa Radio broadcasts live shows on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. on 1090 AM and repeat shows at 6:30 a.m. on Sundays on 96.5 and 92.1 FM. Starting in August, the show will add repeat Educa broadcasts at 9 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays on 1090 AM.

Using a popular medium

Screen Shot 2013-06-28 at 8.28.43 AMDPS officials decided to launch the show as part of an effort to connect with Spanish-speaking parents, a population underserved by district outreach efforts at the time. According to market research, Latinos listen to the radio around eight hours a day, much more than non-Latinos, said Carrera.  In addition, about 32,000 DPS students, or 39 percent, speak Spanish.

On average, Educa attracts more than 15,000 unique listeners each week. Many of those are mothers in the 28-45 age range, said Jorge Cisneros, the show’s producer.

“In Latino society, mom is the model for the family,” he said.

By reaching mothers, as well as some fathers, district leaders hope to help parents become advocates for their children, learn about school district resources, and gain the tools to navigate American life.

“The value is providing the information in a medium they’re already comfortable with,” said Bridget Beatty, coordinator of health strategies for Denver Public Schools.

Plus, she said it removes many of the barriers — lack of time, transportation or child care — that make other informational forums impractical.

Salvador Carrera, who goes by "Chava" as host of Educa Radio.
Salvador Carrera, who goes by “Chava” as host of Educa Radio. <em>Photo courtesy of Denver Public Schools</em>.

Carrera said few school districts offer Spanish-language radio programming to families. He noted that Alex Sánchez, who was director of the multicultural outreach office when Educa began, now runs a similar radio program for the Austin Independent School District. In addition, leaders of Denver’s Educa have been advising administrators from Philadelphia’s school district as they attempt to start a Spanish-language radio show.

The district pays about $40,000 a year to air the show, but Carrera said that is only a fraction of its true costs in terms of air time and other expenses. Entravision, the Spanish-language media company that hosts the show, gives DPS a good deal, he said. Without that help, the show would cost about $250,000 a year. That number will rise to $350,000 in August when Educa starts its six-day-a-week schedule.

Promoting health

As Clavijo sat in the Educa studio on a recent Tuesday morning, he helped map out the messy world of teenage dating, particularly the scary parts where violence and manipulation take hold. Teenage girls are especially susceptible, he told listeners. While 75 percent of abusers are male in adult relationships, the proportion rises to 95 percent in adolescent relationships.

Sometimes, Clavijo said, abuse stems from domestic violence or other troubles teens witness in their parents’ relationships, and then mirror in their own.

“The generational cycle of abuse can and must be broken,” he said.

Clavijo’s segment on teen dating is just one of many Educa shows that fall into the health and wellness category. One-third or more of its programming revolve around such issues.

“That’s been very intentional,” said Beatty. “It didn’t start out that way.”

Through focus groups and other forms of feedback, Spanish-speaking families have expressed strong interest in health topics. There have been shows on suicide prevention, bullying, drug abuse, health insurance options, school breakfast offerings, underage drinking, mental health and the district’s publicly available fitness centers.

The health emphasis also aligns with DPS Health Agenda 2015, a plan that came out in 2010 outlining eight key health goals, including implementing a culturally sensitive health promotion campaign for families.

To go along with Educa Radio, as well the district’s quarterly Spanish-language newspaper, Periódico Educa, the district created a health and wellness Spanish phone line in 2011. The concept was based on research that Spanish-speaking families were more likely to have cell phones than computers, thus making a phone line more useful than a web site. Parents who call the line can leave messages to ask health-related questions, enroll in health workshops or learn more about joining school wellness teams. Beatty said every call is returned.

Educa’s impact

While there are thousands of listeners who tune into Educa each week, those involved in the show say it can be hard to measure its impact. While it’s aimed at DPS parents, parents from other school districts can and do listen to the show. In fact, said Carrera, some parents from neighboring districts call in to lament that their districts don’t have similar programs.

Often, the day-to-day impacts of the show come in the form of calls, posts on the show’s Facebook page, or comments from Spanish-speaking parents who have begun using a district resource that they learned about on the program. For example, after an Educa campaign to raise awareness about the district’s “Sound Body, Sound Mind” fitness centers, which are open to the public for a small fee, Beatty said there was an increase in enrollment among Spanish-speakers.

Henrietta Pazos, mental health and assessment services support specialist with DPS, has appeared on Educa Radio a number of times and says a couple parent phone calls have stuck with her. One was from a mother who sought out services for her child after listening to a show about suicide prevention. Another thanked her for a show on the rarely addressed issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth.

“If we were to pull the show off the air, you would hear the public discontent,” said Carrera.

after parkland

‘We’re not kidding about this,’ says one teen leader of Memphis march on gun violence

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Students in Indianapolis participate in the National School Walkout on March 14. This Saturday, students in the Memphis area will join a related March for Our Lives.

Memphis students were on spring break when this month’s national school walkout against gun violence happened, but 13-year-old Simran Bains is not going to miss her chance to publicly speak her mind.

PHOTO: Simran Bains
Eighth-grader Simran Bains is a student leader at Schilling Farms Middle School in Collierville.

An eighth-grader at Schilling Farms Middle School in Collierville, which is on the outskirts of Memphis, Simran is one of more than a dozen teenagers planning this Saturday’s March for Our Lives in Memphis.

She believes the student drive to protest gun violence following last month’s shooting of 17 people in Parkland, Florida, will not end anytime soon. Saturday’s march is part of a national movement organized by Parkland students to keep the conversation going about gun violence.

“I think this moment is different,” Simran said. “For every school shooting I can remember, it’s the same cycle. People are sad and shocked, but nothing ever changes.”

Students and other supporters will walk to the National Civil Rights Museum from Clayborn Temple, the historic assembling area for civil rights marches of the 1960s.

We spoke with Simran about what this march means to her and what she hopes Memphis learns from it. (This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.)

Why are you participating in Saturday’s march?

For me, I’ve always been a little louder than my peers. I’ve always been one to go on a tangent or two. When I heard about the march from a friend, it really stood out to me because it’s being organized by people my age. I have never seen people this young doing stuff like this. It was inspiring. There’s this perception in society that there’s a gun problem in America and that’s how the world will always be. But here, I’m seeing young people, who are the future of America, changing the world, and I wanted to be a part of that.

What message do you hope to send?

I hope people hear that even though we’re young, we’re not kidding about this, and we won’t back down. I want people in Shelby County to care more about this issue and listen to us. I hope people recognize that even if they have a right to protection, no one should have to fear for their life while receiving a public education. This is a serious issue. If we don’t do something, it only gets worse from here.

But I also hope we can broaden the conversation beyond school shootings. We have one of the highest gun homicide rates in the world, one of the highest suicide-by-gun rates in the world. We’re talking about people killing themselves, not just people killing people. Suicide and homicide aren’t often brought into this conversation. I hope that changes in Memphis.

I also want the march to remind us that we can’t become desensitized to gun violence. Whenever we read that someone was shot, we don’t always think how somebody just lost one of their own. That person will have to go home to empty bedrooms.

What specifically would you like to see happen in Tennessee?

I’m personally not one to advocate for the total removal of guns. I think that’s sometimes an assumption of people who are against protests like March for Our Lives. They assume we want to take all guns away. That’s not necessarily true. But I want a written exam to purchase a gun, like in Japan. I also want a longer wait time when you purchase a gun. I don’t think you should be able to walk into a gun shop and walk out the same day with a weapon. School shootings, or gun violence in general, can often be a spur-of-the-moment decision. What if the person had to wait a few days, weeks or months before they actually got that gun? Would they still feel the same way they did when they first went to buy the gun?

Have you or your family or your friends ever been personally touched by gun violence?

My family has never been a gun family. My parents are immigrants from India, and it’s just never been a thing for us. Going to school where I do, there’s a lot of political viewpoints. Some people are really pro owning guns, some are really against. And it’s an interesting place to talk about this. But also, I’ve gotten to know people from different backgrounds. I know people in Memphis and areas surrounding it who have lost someone to guns. I’ve known people who have lost loved ones to guns in homicides or gang violence.

Starting young

These 11-year-old Brooklyn students are asking New York City to do something about segregated schools

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Matilda and Eliza Seki, left, and their friends Noa and Benji Weiss, right, collected signatures at a district 15 meeting to discuss middle school integration efforts.

While they learned about the history of segregation, a group of Brooklyn 11-year-olds took a good look around their classrooms and realized their schools weren’t so different from the photos in their textbooks.

So Matilda and Eliza Seki paired up with their friends Noa and Benji Weiss — two sets of twins — and decided to do something about it. They launched a petition on calling on the city to integrate its schools.

“We learned about separate and equal in the civil rights movement, and that it was not equal,” Eliza said, referring to the “separate but equal” legal doctrine once used to justify segregation. “And since there are schools with people of only one race, and it’s all separated, it cannot be equal.”

Matilda and Eliza are in the sixth grade at M.S. 839, and Noa and Benji are fifth-graders at P.S. 10. They already have a bit of experience in activism, having joined the Women’s March in D.C., and helping to lead environmental clubs at their school. They hold sophisticated views for kids their age, and are aware of the hurdles ingrained in addressing school segregation.

Describing how housing patterns can tie into school quality, Benji began his thoughts by saying: “Let’s say you’re from a different culture or race and you don’t have as much money as other people do — because we still live in a racist country — and you’re in an area where the housing is cheaper but you don’t have as good schools.”

Across New York City, adults have debated how to spur integration in the country’s largest school system — and one of the most segregated. According to one recent analysis, the city’s most selective high schools enroll 84 percent white and Asian students, even though those groups make up only 30 percent of the city’s student enrollment.

But student-organized groups have also been at the forefront of a grassroots movement for more diverse schools. The work of budding advocates Matilda, Eliza, Noa and Benji caught the attention of some those groups, and they’ve now joined the ranks of Teens Take Charge and IntegrateNYC as some of the youngest members. The changes they’d like to see go beyond admissions policies, but also include a push for additional resources for underserved schools, hiring more teachers of color and curricula that reflects all students and cultures.

“We decided it was an important issue and we wanted to help fix it,” Noa said.

Matilda added: “Our schools should look like our city.”

Their schools are in District 15, where 81 percent of white students are concentrated in just three of the district’s most selective middle schools, according to an analysis by parents. The city has launched a series of public workshops to craft a new admissions model to integrate middle schools there, but these kids already have their own ideas for how to do that.

Benji, who is heading to middle school next year, said it would be “pretty good” if schools stopped picking students based on criteria such as class grades and attendance. Such “screening” contributes to segregation because of a number of factors — from which elementary schools students attend, to their parents’ ability to navigate the complicated admissions process.  

“It’s… important to learn about different peoples’ backgrounds, and religions, and cultures,” he said. “And also to make sure that all kids, no matter their race, religion or where they live can get the same, good education.”