For Anisa Rodriguez, it started with an interest in American labor leader Dolores Huerta.
Rodriguez, 17, was learning about Huerta, who worked with Cesar Chavez to form the National Farmworkers Association, and she had a simple question — Why don't Tri-City high schools teach cultural studies?
That is the question Rodriguez along with her two team members are trying to answer as part of the two-day RadioActive workshop at WSU Tri-Cities.
This is the first time the Seattle-centric program ventured into the Mid-Columbia, holding a pop-up radio workshop. The program allows teens to craft stories under the guidance of a radio journalist.
About a dozen students participated in the workshop brought to the Richland campus by KOUW and Northwest Public Broadcasting.
The nearly 5-year-old program grew out of a desire for hear the stories that concern today's youth as well as provide mentoring for them. The program holds longer workshops along with these shorter events.
"We need to hear the stories and perspectives of young people," said Lila Kitaeff, a program producer for KUOW Public Radio. "It's also important to listeners to expand our viewpoints."
Depending on time and content, some of the stories produced this weekend could make it to airwaves. At the very least, the students will share the stories with each other at a listening party Sunday.
The event brought together students from across the Tri-Cities and around the Mid-Columbia. In Rodriguez's group, Josh Sivonen was a Tri-Tech student from Richland, and Zech Cyr a member of the Umatilla Confederated Tribes. It was this combination that brought Rodriguez's questions to the forefront.
Cyr's high school has a cultural studies class; neither of the two Tri-City students have cultural studies as an option, and they wanted to know why.
They came up with a list of three people to interview for their story. Then they will write a script, and finally pull it all together for a finished story.
This organic development of story ideas interested their mentor, Esmy Jimenez, a Prosser High School graduate who recently returned to the Yakima Valley to work for Northwest Public Broadcasting.
Jimenez said it's important to hear from youth in rural Washington who face a different set of challenges than their Western counterparts. She hopes the program continues in eastern Washington and encourages more students to consider staying in rural communities.
"I'm just celebrating this really powerful moment where this Cascade curtain has melted away," she said. "This program is really important. We're providing accessibility to media ... It was something that I didn't see."