Radio Spot on Rural Teen Issues: Isolation, Depression, Drug Abuse

By Loretta Corrico-Russell

One grant, multiple beneficiaries.

With the help of six Shasta County’s intermountain-area teens, Chico’s KFPR/KCHO is focusing on rural teen health issues using grant money awarded to the area.

Last week the teens spent three days at Hill Country Health and Wellness Center in Round Mountain taking a crash course in how to produce a radio program.

Their 4-minute piece is to air at 8 tonight. The teens will be in the studio in Redding to answer any questions during a live call-in show.

Helping with training were Kaden Freeman-Villegas, the radio station’s Health Dialogue Team intern, producer Mark Speer, and Minnie Sagar.

Kaden, 17, a Shasta High School student, said that former Redding resident Lorraine Dechter, now with KCHO,  singled out Shasta’s intermountain area for the focus because it has a well-organized youth group, a teen center under construction and a community radio station, KKRN, being developed that be located in the teen center.


KCHO producer Mark Speer teaches how to edit out background noise from an interview as Ashley Sherbundy, Kayla Schmidt, James York and Danielle Sherbundy watch.

In last week’s accelerated program, the teens — Kayla Schmidt, 16, James York, 18, Ashley Sherbundy, 16, Danielle Sherbundy, 14, Barry Fischer, 19, and Kole Oliver, 15, — learned  the technical craft and creative energy that goes into creating a radio piece.

They spent time taking an idea and developing its key points, identifying individuals to interview and developing pertinent questions, conducting the interview, selecting soundbites, writing a script and choosing appropriate music and natural sounds from the area, editing the audio and inserting their storyline.

The teens also interviewed each other on the topic of isolation and what it can mean to teens living so far away from others.


Tammy Allan, LCSW, explains the consequences of isolation to James York, Danielle Sherbundy and Kayla Schmidt as the other teens looked on.

Hill Country’s director of behavioral health Tammy Allan was chosen to be interviewed.

Allan, a license clinical social worker, also facilitates the Youth Advisory Board along with Fred Newell. It’s a joint effort by Acorn Community Enterprises and Hill Country Clinic, and encompasses the communities of Round Mountain, Montgomery Creek, Oakrun and Big Bend.

The area sits between Redding and Burney. There are about 75 teens in these areas, and about 300 in Burney and Fall River Mills, said Staci Wadley, chief executive officer of Acorn.

Isolation, depression and drug use are common in rural areas and are  interconnected, Allan said, and are of a particular concern for the intermountain area. It is actually more extreme than rural, Allan said — it’s frontier.  It has fewer than five people per square mile and covers1,000 square miles.

“It’s a big area with not a lot of people in it,” she said, and has a diverse population in its socioeconomic, political and cultural landscape.

As a result, apart from school, many teens do not have access to socialization opportunities offered by cell-phone or Internet access.  Social networking online is a big part of the current social fabric, and socializing is crucial to growing up healthy and feeling connected in one’s personal life, she said.

The frontier lifestyle doesn’t provide a menu of options like a big city, which can provide opportunities free or cheaper for teens to develop their talents, she said.


Minnie Sagar explains why it’s important to identify key points in a radio spot to Kayla Schmidt, Danielle Sherbundy and James York.

The teens agreed and took turns explaining how the isolation affects their lives. Ashley said there are different types of isolation and that it affects everyone differently. In her case it means not being able to participate in after-school sports because of  a lack of transportation.

James shared that before he was adopted, isolation was a natural feeling as a foster child and in a group home.

The teens said isolation can take a toll especially when a teen chooses suicide, as in the case of the two teens in the past year — a sobering reminder of the seriousness of the problem. Allan said isolation and disconnectedness are factors in people following through on suicidal tendencies.

For Danielle, isolation leads to a “cultural lag” a feeling of being left behind everyone else. She said there is a difference between survival skills and street skills — that having both would be ideal, but those living in the intermountain area are exposed to just the survival skills.

Kayla had lived in more populated areas before moving to Big Bend, where her closest neighbor is four miles away. She was astonished by what was missing in her life and initially sought counseling to cope. Living in the mountains, she said, she had to quickly learn the difference between “a want and a need” because she can’t go to the store anytime she wants.

They talked too about the lack of employment opportunities in the area, which has only the clinic, a tiny post office, a small gas station/convenience store and a café.

Wadley said the radio training and interviewing was a great experience for the teens and will help prepare them to be leaders/teachers of other teens on how to do interviews and create content for KKRN.

Kaden agreed, saying the internship was his first real job. He’s excited about what he learned, the skills he acquired, and how the skills will transfer to other areas, as well as being able to list this experience on his résumé.

KKRN has received word that it will most likely receive an $82,000 federal matching grant but won’t hear for sure until September. If so, the group will have six months to raise the additional $54,000 needed to match the federal grant, Wadley said.

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