Sophomores share teen perspective on issues of 2020

From the quarantine to voting to protests, GenZ, FrenZ aims to enlighten



Gen Z FrenZ episodes created by sophomores Wang, Shangguan, and Calkins can be found on their instagram, genzfrenzpodcast 

After less than a week of quarantining for the first time, an idea started brewing in sophomore Sophia Wang’s head. As she stared at the world around her from outside her bedroom window, she realized she wanted to be a part of it. 

After months of hard work and help from her friends, Sophia finally was able to turn her idea into a reality and start her own podcast that comments on current events.

 On Aug. 21, sophomores Xiaotian Shangguan, Charlotte Calkins, and Wang collaborated in the making of a 30-minute podcast titled “Summer of Screens- How Covid-19 is impacting teens this summer”. Its goal was to give young people a platform to share their experiences. 

The team has been able to interview a diverse group of people during their episodes, ranging from international students to experts on COVID-19”

True to its name, the first episode highlights the struggles teens faced during their summer indoors. In only a half hour time frame, they were able to highlight the social and emotional tolls of self isolation, the pros and cons of electronics, and making new connections online. 

The sophomores currently have a set schedule of one new episode every two weeks, with sixteen episodes currently available to stream.

The original idea was to start a club revolving around COVID-19. After the virus hit, Wang realized that she was about to live through a major historical event, and was inspired to speak out about her experience. 

 “I just wanted to be nosy and document this momentous era in my lifetime…The more time I spent reflecting on the world’s current circumstances the more curious I was of how other kids were dealing with this crisis,” said Wang. 

She reached out to her friends to see who would be interested in a long term project, and was surprised to receive support from two eager classmates, one of whom she has known for six years. 

“Me and Sophia have been close friends since fifth grade. The other member, Xiaotian, I have known for even longer as a friendly acquaintance, but I have definitely gotten to know her a lot better through this process,” said Calkins. 

Eventually after refining their ideas, they came to the agreement of creating a podcast.

With topics from the social effects of quarantining to the necessity of voting, Gen Z FrenZ gives a young audience the opportunity to learn about issues that directly affect them. 

Every set of episodes tackles a new issue, but instead of skimming the surface, the podcast delves into the global aspects of each topic. 

“I want to do stories that kinda connect with people, not just in the US, but in different countries,” Shangguan said. 

The team has been able to interview a diverse group of people during their episodes, ranging from international students to experts on COVID-19. The interview process can range from simple to tedious. 

“The physical process was easy. We’d solidify the topic and reach out to people who are connected to it. Emotionally, not as much,” said Shangguan. “I get really nervous when I interview people, and having to talk to people I haven’t seen in a while is tough.” 

In their second episode, Wang interviews Northwestern University Immunology professor Dr. Satchell. 

Questions like “is there a guarantee of vaccines eliminating COVID-19?” and “what are the risks of testing on groups of people?” were proposed to the professor during the podcast, all of them chosen through a survey handed out to their local teen community. 

“I think the most important part I learned was that even scientists didn’t know everything. Coronavirus really was a mystery back then, and still is,” says Wang. 

Tiffany Lai, a long term listener of the series, was impressed by the tone of the episode: 

“They had some good questions, and on the interviewee’s side, you could tell they tried to give as much information as they could…it felt really professional.”

Although the podcast is aimed at students, some older listeners like Kathryn Calkins, the mother of crew member Charlotte Calkins, have taken a liking to their content, especially from the perspectives of outsiders looking into the world of Gen Z. 

“As someone from a different generation, I was intrigued by what I heard about their feelings about the pandemic and how they’re dealing with it. I’d say it’s urgent for older people to listen to the [younger generation],” said Kathryn.

Adding a fresh perspective to a topic that isn’t always in mainstream media can be helpful to those who aren’t as knowledgeable about the topic.   

“I, like many people, don’t focus necessarily on a question like [the electoral college]…” said Kathryn, referring to the podcast’s series on voting and the elections. “I know about it, I know that people object to it, but I never asked myself why people objected to it…it was really informative for me.”

Once the voting season began, Gen Z FrenZ made educating their listeners on the voting process a necessity, with mail in ballots becoming a more popular form of voting. 

Their new segment was used to reach out to politically active teens and first time voters. They also explained the process of voting and the deep rooted issues with the electoral college. 

The podcast introduced Wilmette’s League of Women Voters attendee, Karen Glennemeier, who spoke of replacing the electoral college system with ranked choice voting. 

“[The ranked choice system] allows for a more fair expression for people’s priorities… Without having to play this game of ‘winner takes all,’” Glennemeier explains. 

Their second series of podcasts is a three parter revolving around the reopening of schools. Every episode starts with students from local schools and ends with broader global experiences. 

By the last episode of this series, titled, “The Other Side of the Globe,” a high school sophomore from Japan and a college exchange student from China took part in the podcast, discussing how schools from different countries handle their reopening.

“I enjoyed connecting with people I usually don’t connect with, and it was just really cool to have a broader view of the world and what it was like. I never really thought about that until I produced that episode. It was a nice experience,” says Xiaotian.

Although none of the creators had any experience with producing podcasts, listeners agree that the content released is well made. 

“I really enjoy the interviews and conversations the hosts have with each other. I love hearing the different ideas they have, and they have a relaxed tone that makes it really easy to listen to,” said Lai.

While the podcast has only been around four months, GenZ FrenZ creators have many long term goals.

“I think all three of us have a lot of big ideas of where this podcast could go. It is still in its infant stage and we are all learning so much every episode about how to create good content,” said Shangguan.

All three girls have expressed a desire to eventually report more on social and cultural subjects. 

 “In the future, we hope to dive into some more nuanced topics, and we have a list to put ideas in whenever we have them,” said Calkins. 

Shangguan said that she’d love to do an episode about the Black Lives Matter (BLM)  movements and climate change. 

Even if GenZ FrenZ only gets around 20 views per podcast, the team is never dissuaded and continues to work tirelessly. 

“I don’t have any intentions to go viral, but if we did, I wouldn’t be complaining,” said Wang. “Personally, I make each episode for myself. It doesn’t matter who’s watching”