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Finding His Voice in YOUmedia

Deandre stepped inside YOUmedia as a shy sophomore who barely talked. At 18, he is the host, producer, and sound engineer of his very own podcast.

Coming out of his shell
Deandre stumbled upon Thurgood Marshall’s YOUmedia one day after school. “A friend just invited me to check out this teen space because they have all these cool video games. I’m a gamer, so I went,” he shares. That was three years ago. He has been coming ever since.
Random game sessions slowly turned into an unexpected journey to self-discovery. “I have always been curious about podcasts so one day, I finally found the courage to ask Ms. Nikki, a YOUmedia mentor, to help me learn more.” Pleasantly surprised with the request of the usually quiet teen,  Ms. Nikki helped Deandre set up the mic and the laptop. “What do I do now?” Deandre asked, his voice laced with uncertainty. “Just talk like no one’s listening,” the YOUmedia mentor encouraged with a smile.

“I have trouble speaking with other people. I get too nervous, and I often end up stuttering or mumbling. Podcasting has given me the confidence boost to overcome my shyness. YOUmedia has helped me realize a talent I didn’t even know I had.”

Aside from the podcasting lessons, Deandre believes it is YOUmedia’s sense of community that helped him come out of his shell. “I get to talk to people with the same interests as mine. I found my tribe here and that really helped me open up,” he explains.
Taking his potential to the next level 
What started as a personal challenge to go beyond his comfort zone soon evolved into a personal project.  Countless hours of practice in YOUmedia led Deandre to launch a podcast: It’s Part of the Game! where he discusses the different aspects of video game design. He chooses the topic, edits the audio, writes the script, and uploads them on Soundcloud and YouTube. “I’m very proud of this project because I built the podcast from the ground up. It gives me a sense of accomplishment,” the 18-year-old beams.

“I record every episode at YOUmedia. Access to the space, equipment, and mentors helped me hone my craft.”

It was also in YOUmedia that Deandre found his podcast partner.
“Jamal and I were actually classmates in third grade. We were very close. We played and ate together, but he transferred to another school.  One day, I went to YOUmedia to finish my homework when I saw him sitting on the couch, talking to Jeff. I approached him and we just started catching up. After finding out that he’s into podcasting too, we decided to work together.”
Reunited after nine years, Jamal is now Deandre’s co-host and sound engineer.
Looking into the future
When not recording a new episode, Deandre also dabbles in web design and coding another−skill he picked up in YOUmedia. “It’s a different creative outlet for me. I can’t draw so it’s fun that I am still able to express my thoughts visually,” he explains.  He is currently completing the website for his podcast.
For someone who was once unsure of his talents, Deandre has now found a career path. Now a junior in high school, he is exploring broadcast communications as a major in college, a field where his passion for creativity and technology intersects.
As I wrap up the interview, Deandre asks, “Do you want to know about the episode I’m working on?” Nodding, he excitedly explains the ins and outs of downloadable content. He also laid a thought-provoking case about why these forms of content should be free and accessible to all. He speaks with such passion and quiet confidence; it’s hard to believe that this is the same young man who kept to himself in a hidden corner of the teen space not so long ago.
Deandre has come so far thanks to the guidance and support from his mentors and friends at YOUmedia. With his talent and self-assurance, he will continue to go a long way! And his YOUmedia tribe will be here for him.
YOUmedia has been instrumental in supporting students like Deandre as they discover, develop, and realize their potential. Join us as we celebrate our 10th anniversary on September 28 with the most creative and expressive block party in town!

A special shoutout to BMO Harris Bank, Allstate, the James & Madeleine McMullan Family Foundation, the Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, Comcast, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Museum of Science and Industry, Oppenheimer Family Foundation, and other generous supporters of the Foundation for their commitment to Chicago’s teens. You, too, can provide a teen with a safe space to create, explore, and learn.

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