A Time to Be Heard: JU Dolphin Radio Cares

University Radio Station Launches Youth Outreach Program


For an afternoon, their young voices were amplified.

Live from the JU Dolphin Radio studio, the words and laughter, the creative expression of the 12 Highland Middle School students who visited Jacksonville University on March 13 surged across the airwaves and echoed throughout the third floor of the Davis Student Commons. It was a time to be heard

And with them, a new initiative began.

Their arrival marked the official launch of “JU Dolphin Radio Cares,” a community outreach initiative designed to provide Jacksonville youth groups the opportunity to experience the inner-workings of a live university radio station and learn about broadcast media in a fun, experiential way.

For the inaugural event, JU partnered with Highlands Middle School’s Communities in Schools TEAM UP program. TEAM UP is a free after-school dropout prevention program that provides a safe environment where students can participate in enrichment activities and are encouraged and motivated to succeed in academics.

The concept behind “JU Dolphin Radio Cares” was born when Veronica Session, a junior communication major and program director for JU Dolphin Radio, was searching for a way that the organization could give back to the community and saw potential in the station equipment. Alongside the rest of the staff, she took the creative initiative to use the studio as more than a tool for day-to- day operation, but also as a tool educate and empower youth.\

“We’re so fortunate to go to a nice private school and have a lot of opportunities here that I just want to share with the community around us,” she said.

Upon arriving, students split up into

two groups. One headed into the studio, where Shane Kennedy, station manager and 2014 JU sociology alumnus, and Jarail Fennell, public affairs officer and junior communication major, encouraged them to come up with their own DJ names and helped them to broadcast their voices live on the JU Dolphin Radio airwaves.

Down the hall, their classmates gathered together at a craft table with Session, where they created handmade clocks from recycled vinyl records, talking and laughing together, while listening to a live stream of the broadcast.

Sixth grade student Jamari Bailey took to the microphone with excitement and confidence. Under the DJ name “Master J,” he used his time on the airwaves to rap for his classmates.

“It was awesome,” he said.

After joking that JU has “a little too many stairs,” he described the school as “pretty fun.”

“I like it here,” he said. “I might come in the future.”

It’s that interest in and personal connection that Highlands Middle School TEAM UP Program Director Allen Fennell and Youth Coordinator Périssa Numa, who accompanied the students, hope to achieve through partnerships with the university.

“I want to get my kids out to the university,” Allen Fennell said. “A lot of kids within the city don’t realize that Jacksonville University exists. It’s a beautiful campus within the community.”

Working with JU Dolphin Radio to bring their students on campus held another strong significance for Fennell and Numa, who are both JU alumni. Allen Fennell graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor’s in Geography and Numa in 2012 with a Bachelor’s in Social Sciences.

“It’s a great feeling,” Numa said. “This is where I came from. It’s what bred me.”

Returning to JU for the afternoon, Numa was enthusiastic to share with her students a first-hand experience of her alma mater.

“It’s exciting because they ask me about JU all the time,” she said. “It’s easier for them to just see it than for me to answer 10,000 questions.”

She was also pleased with the small size of the group and the one-on-one attention given to her students by the JU Dolphin Radio Staff.

“Each and every one of them got their own experience instead of just surveying or observing,” she said.

Allen Fennell hopes to strengthen the network between Highlands Middle School and JU. In addition to working with JU Dolphin Radio, he has coordinated with Professor of Geography Ray Oldakowski, Ph.D., to bring JU interns to the school and is in the process of establishing a mentor program with the recently formed Distinguished Black Gentlemen student organization.

“Every time I get an opportunity to brag on JU or bring some kids out to JU, I definitely take full advantage of that,” he said. “I want to keep them on the right path, motivating them to stay in school, so I want

to expose them to college at a young age. Hopefully when they come out here and see such a nice area, it motivates them to stay in school and stay positive.”

The “JU Dolphin Radio Cares” initiative plans to bring a new local youth group to the station each month. The staff will close the semester with one more event in April, and set their sights on growing and developing new relationships within the city as they move forward to the 2015-16 academic year.