Bronx Prep M.S. wins NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge

Bronx Prep M.S. wins NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge
Photo courtesy of Bronx Prep Middle School

A Bronx middle school’s podcast is about periods, period.

A group of girls at Bronx Prep Middle School, along with their teacher, started a podcast earlier this year after National Public Radio announced that it was kicking off its first-ever Student Podcast Challenge.

As part of NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge, the podcast beat out 5,700 other podcast entries from 25,000 students across the country earlier this month, which inspired and motivated the podcasters to bring it back for a second season.

Back in March, seven eighth graders at the school located at 3872 Third Avenue, along with their teacher Shehtaz Huq, decided to write, produce and record a podcast which focused on menstruation to increase awareness about a topic that is not typically covered in a middle school setting.

On the Sssh! Podcast, the students discussed specific terms related to menstruation, such as ‘period poverty’, which relates to the costs women have to bear to acquire period products as well as the time and money lost due to missed work and/or school because of period-related issues, as well as ‘pink tax’, which is tax added to feminine hygiene products and items such as razors, shampoo, shaving cream and menstrual products. They also discussed the cultural shame around menstruation.

To bring the podcast back for a second season, the Sssh! Periods podcast team started a GoFundMe page on Tuesday, August 13, with a goal of raising $1,800 which would be used toward equipment and podcast hosting fees, including microphones, XLR cords, a sound mixer, mic stands, headphones, headphone wiring, storage drives, recording studio sessions and a SoundCloud subscription fee.

In just one week, the team had raised $2,076, more than their goal. The GoFundMe Team donated $1,000 as part of their Gives Back program. The school’s principal, Ryan Silver, also allocated $500.

The podcast team features eighth grade students Raizel Febles, Kathaleen Restitullo, Litzy Encarnacion, Ashley Amankwah, Caroline Abreu, Jasmin Acosta and Kassy Abad.

“People aren’t used to us talking about a part of our body that is often sexualized,” Abreu said. “They get grossed out over something that is natural, but the more we talk about it, the easier it will be for other generations to talk about their bodies and not feel ashamed.”

“We did not think that we would win,” Amankwah said. “Now that we have, we know we need to keep doing this work, not just for the girls at our school but for all the girls and women who have messaged us to say that our podcast made them feel less alone in their experience.”

“If Cardi B can talk about politics, we can talk about issues that affect us, too,” said Encarnacion.

Since winning the Student Podcast Challenge, the podcast team has been covered by media outlets WNYC, Today Show at NBC, ACLU, Jezebel, Afropunk, along with NPR’s Morning Edition and Code Switch programs.

“NPR is proud of all the students who entered the Student Podcast Challenge, but the Bronx Prep Middle School students’ winning entry stood out,” said an NPR spokesperson.

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