betterArts Receives First Grant, 'Better Radio' Becomes Reality

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BetterArts has received its first grant, which will allow the local non-profit to serve teens and the local community through the creation of Better Radio: A New Media Project.

The Best Buy Children's Foundation donates up to $2 million annually in community grants to local and regional nonprofit organizations that provide teens with places and opportunities to develop 21st-century technology skills that will inspire future education and career choices. The foundation has awarded betterArts $6,000 to support Better Radio: A New Media Project by betterArts. That program seeks to serve teenagers interested in New Media, journalism, broadcasting, and recording (voice, music). In this community, there are few resources for students interested in pursuing careers in New Media and production. We are in the process of creating a radio station (the application deadline was delayed due to the recent government shutdown). That station, in tandem with our already established website and blog, will allow for programming that educates students about recording, uploading, syncing, mixing, digitally editing, creating podcasts, and producing content to flourish in a way that draws attention to our community.

BetterArts' radio station and websites will allow the organization to train individuals to create podcasts, upload music, record and broadcast sound, use editing software, create programming, and record and mix music. Children served in this program are defined as teenagers interested in these skills who have not traditionally had the means to pursue them.

As technology becomes more ingrained in our society, we know it is increasingly necessary for youth to develop the 21st-century skills that will set them up for future career success. Yet, we also know that a participation gap exists. Too many teens have little or no access to technology and, as a result, they fall behind their peers. Meanwhile, teens who do have access can benefit greatly by moving beyond mere consumption and toward engaging in the learning opportunities technology can offer.

Goals of Better Radio include:
  • Invigorating the community by offering students hands-on experience focusing on local stories, musicians, individuals, and businesses while honing broadcast journalism and New Media skills 
  • Training students to use technology related to New Media, thereby helping them "keep up" with this ever-changing landscape 
  • Providing individuals with skills that will make them attractive to future employers and/or schools 
  • Exciting students with new information that will reinvigorate their interests in their educations 
  • Offering an alternative educational environment that is hands-on and creative 
  • Initiating a residency program for high school students that allows them to access a premier New Media education at no monetary cost to them

Expected impacts of the program are:
  • To call attention to this unique community, comprised of generations of farm families and a new influx of a soldier community from Fort Drum 
  • To increase students' confidence in their abilities and to show them ways they can apply their natural creativity to technical work 
  • To foster a pilot radio station program that will flourish in years to come and provide entertainment and thought-provoking commentary to the community 
  • To create a stable of podcasts which can be streamed over the Internet, thereby reaching an even larger audience 
  • To initiate a residency program for years to come that will invite young adults to visit our campus and receive top-notch training in New Media
Redwood and its surrounding communities are largely low-income pockets where decreased funding has meant cuts to arts and extended learning programs throughout the county. BetterArts seeks to combat this by filling the void with free programming related to sustainability and the arts. This geographic area is also unique in that it is comprised of older farms that have closed or reinvented themselves (either by becoming organic, switching their crops, or changing their distribution methods).

We are creating a radio program to invigorate this hamlet and surrounding areas; to entertain, to inform. Our broadcasts will include feature news reporting, storytelling, music sets, and live musical performances. We will provide teens with a huge amount of education resources: to produce programming, practice reporting, editing files, uploading podcasts to the Internet, producing radio shows, and more.

We will accomplish our goals by:
  • Implementing the creation of a new radio station (already pending) 
  • Reaching out to students throughout Jefferson County (via presentations at high schools, partnerships with extracurricular programs and activities, after-school clubs, and at events where we will set up a broadcast booth open for teens to try out the equipment and sign up to participate in our program). 
  • Utilizing our already-established website and blog to transmit new media productions created by young adults through our program.
Our implementation plan is threefold:
1. We work with the state to be assigned our radio station frequency (already pending). The radio signal will reach Redwood and surrounding communities. We will simultaneously redesign our website (, already existing) to include our radio station for live-streaming, podcasts, and previously recorded interviews, stories, and sets.
2. We use allocated Best Buy funding ($6,000) to purchase the equipment necessary to train teens. This will include recording equipment (digital dictophones, mics, mixers, editing software, etc.). Funding will also go toward promoting the program in local schools.

Our timeline is as follows:
JULY 1, 2013: Deadline for Best Buy Grant
FALL 2013: Distribution of funds, radio program deadline
SPRING 2014: Purchasing of equipment, setting up of radio station, restructuring websites and blog
SUMMER 2014: Recruitment for fall and spring programming
FALL 2014: Initiation of "Better Radio" program

We anticipate selling advertising on the radio station and websites to sustain the program going forward. Once the equipment is bought, actual costs are quite low. Volunteers and students will run the bulk of the programming, ad sales will drive the program forward, and our donation-based events throughout the year will help to raise moneys necessary for future upgrades and contracting.

The proposed activities will benefit the community in a number of ways:
  • By fostering a sense of community between individuals living and working here and the youth reporting 
  • By drawing attention to the unique community we live in 
  • By educating our teenagers, thereby encouraging their success as adults
Stay tuned for more information!

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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.