City High School Student Wins New York Times Student Podcast Contest

Samantha Zazueta, a 2019 graduate of City High School, had one of twelve winning entries in the New York Times’ annual student podcast contest! High school students from around the world submitted over 900 podcasts to the Times for the contest. Sam’s story got top billing and a photo feature.

To hear Sam’s compelling story, “My Incarcerated Family,” visit the New York Times story or listen directly on SoundCloud.

Samantha Zazueta, Class of 2019, worked with Radio Teacher Sarah Bromer (left), for countless hours on her podcast. Photo by Jessica Melrose.

“My Incarcerated Family” tells the story of Sam’s quest to understand why so many people in her family have been imprisoned. Her mom tells her it’s just “poor choices” that land people in the system, but Sam isn’t satisfied with that answer. She wants to know why people make bad decisions, and whether the system teaches them to make better choices. She interviews her mom, her formerly incarcerated uncle, Pima County Public Defender Joel Feinman, and several members of the Pima County Criminal Justice Reform Unit. It is an informative and moving story. 

Samantha produced her winning story in Sarah Bromer’s Radio Production class, where students learn to write, record, edit, and produce their own radio pieces for City High’s podcast. Sam’s story was also an integral part of her Senior YPAR (youth-led participatory action research) project in Krista Gypton’s Senior Seminar class.

Sam’s radio teacher, Sarah, had this to say about Samantha’s win:

“I can’t think of a student more deserving of this honor. Sam was committed to telling this story as perfectly as she could, and she succeeded. She met with me after school for at least 40 hours during the production of this piece, in addition to the time she spent in class and at home on it. And she was an interviewing machine! She gathered more than ten hours of tape for this five-minute story.

Sam has produced a beautiful piece of journalism. It’s sweet and innocent, but it packs a hard punch. We’ve all heard stories about America’s problems with mass incarceration, but to see it from the inside, from the perspective of a young person struggling to understand her family’s place in the system—it just makes it feel fresh and new, and that allows the listener to engage on a much more emotional level to the content. Her story is so illuminating and it has forever changed the way I will look at criminal justice in America.”

For more of Sam’s story and City High Radio:

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