Smalls podcast – being a ‘QuaranTeen’

By Suzanne Werre, Editor

Turtle Lake-Mercer’s Miya Smalls is one of this year’s seniors whose last year as a high school student has forever been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like all of the seniors and other students at the Turtle Lake-Mercer School, Smalls is going without spring extra-curriculars, going without a prom, and other activities. She won’t be competing at the state speech meet after having already qualified in two categories.

Some of the students are journaling their experiences due to COVID-19. To commemorate her senior year, Smalls is broadcasting a podcast called QuaranTeen as part of the radio broadcasting class she’s taking through ITV class with Linton students.

Just before school was shut down for what could be the rest of the school year, Smalls and her Linton classmates and instructor, returned from New York City where they had attended the 80th annual Intercollegiate Broadcasting System conference, where high school and collegiate broadcast students met to discuss and exchange ideas on broadcast journalism. They were also presented with 19 Golden Microphone awards for their broadcast work at the station this past year.

Smalls and her classmates are also a part of history, as they were among those who attended the last NBA game held at Madison Square Garden – the Knicks vs. the Pistons -- before it was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While in New York, the students attended a Broadway play (The Lion King), visited the Statue of Liberty and the 911 Memorial, as well as Times Square and Central Park. They visited all the hot spots tourists

usually visit when they’re in NYC, returning home March 10 – right before New York City became a hot spot for COVID-19.

The count of patients testing positive for coronavirus was going up little by little each day they were there, noted Smalls, so they started taking precautions early.

“Our group made sure to be very well cautious and take that extra step to make sure we could avoid it as much as possible,” said Smalls. “Washing our hands, using hand sanitizer, disinfecting handles and seats, and made sure to do the majority of our traveling on foot.

“I’ve been home since March 10 and haven’t shown any symptoms whatsoever,” she added, also adding that she self-quarantined for two weeks when she got home.

Because of the current circumstances in New York due to the COVID-19 virus, Smalls’ precautions warranted mention in this story, but the real story is about Smalls’ experiences with the broadcasting class she’s been taking through ITV the past two years, the only student at TLM to be doing so.

Her interest in broadcasting started when she was pretty young, she said, evolving from her early interest in writing.

“I’ve always been into writing, and when my parents got divorced I used writing to work through my emotions, and it just developed into a love for writing,” she said.

The love of writing evolved into an interest in journalism, which led her to the ITV broadcast journalism class and KLHS/KLPS radio (Linton High/Public School), and Jay Schmaltz, class instructor and station manager.

Each day Smalls is required to fill two hours of broadcast time on the radio station AM 1620 – the only high school radio station in North Dakota -- using information and stories that are sent to her, as well as adding her own commentary and words of wisdom.

Smalls excels at taking the information she’s given, adding her own flair, and turning it into a cohesive show.

She’s actually a Broadcast 2 student since she’s in her second year, said Schmaltz, but she’s been doing Broadcast 3 level work alongside her Linton classmates.

The Broadcast 3 work she’s been doing is going to be excellent preparation for her when she goes to college this fall, added Schmaltz.

Smalls plans on majoring in communications/public relations when she goes to Minot State University this fall, with an ultimate goal of making her way back to New York as a professional broadcast journalist in the future. That goal, and what type of journalism she wants to pursue, may change once she gets a little more experience with the other forms of journalism and public relations at Minot State, she said.

The break-out sessions at the conference in New York solidified her interest in journalism, taught her how to best move toward a potential career in broadcasting, and how to market herself when she starts job hunting.

“They really helped me to figure out which classes I should take, how to get my name out there and what I should put on my applications,” said Smalls. “It also taught us a lot about podcasts, which a lot of people are doing these days.”

Miya is one of them.

Her podcast is using the pandemic as a springboard as she named her podcast “QuaranTeen.” She’ll be reporting on “what it means to be a teenager in the 21st century.” The easiest way to hear her podcast is to go to KLHSradio.com.

Schmaltz thinks Smalls’ podcast, especially because of the subject matter, has the potential to reach a lot of people.

“Her topic is just so right on – it’s something people will listen to and follow – it might even go viral for her,” said Schmaltz.

While 2020 in general will be a year to remember for Smalls, the trip to New York for the broadcast conference is a definite highlight, as have other experiences with the radio station in Linton.

“I got to go down to their school and be a part of their morning show that they do before school,” she said. “And just getting to be a part of the class is very rewarding, and getting to go on a trip like IBS to New York to the conference, that was amazing. I definitely never thought I would get that kind of opportunity.”

Schmaltz agrees with Smalls -- her experience with the KLHS and the broadcasting class are just the beginning of what should be a long and successful career in broadcast journalism.

“She’s so fun, she’s got so much energy, and she’s so into this, I don’t see how she could not succeed,” said Schmaltz. “She has so much drive and determination . . . I’ll take a person like that any day. She’ll take any project you give her and she’ll raise it to the next level. You don’t even have to ask her.”

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