College Finalists In Our Student Podcast Challenge This year's finalists in the Student Podcast Challenge, College Edition, give us a glimpse at life on, and off, campus.
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Best In Show: Our Favorite College Podcasts

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Best In Show: Our Favorite College Podcasts

Best In Show: Our Favorite College Podcasts

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

NPR has been holding a student podcast challenge for a few years now. As tradition, we ask students in middle school and high school to pitch an idea for a short podcast story, and the winner's work airs on an NPR program. This year, though, the challenge was expanded to college students as well. And we got a whole lot of entries. We heard about systemic racism in art, colorful tours through food and culture and, of course, the challenges of school and life in the pandemic. Sequoia Carrillo from NPR's Education team introduces us to some of the finalists.

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LENNON SHERBURNE: I don't do much anymore aside from school and skateboard, but even that stopped for a while after I got my concussion.

SEQUOIA CARRILLO, BYLINE: That's Lennon Sherburne from Simmons University in Boston. They're one of the many student podcasters who really went deep this year. They described how their pandemic experience was different than most for one big reason - no screens.

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SHERBURNE: So all I could do was sit and think and think and think about the school I wasn't doing, about the miles I wasn't running, about the people I wasn't seeing, about the pandemic that isn't ending.

CARRILLO: Feeling isolated was something we heard over and over again. Elijah McKee is a senior at Skidmore College. He really put that feeling into sound in a postcard to his bedroom.

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ELIJAH MCKEE: How did you, will you spend your days here? Did the, will the overhead fan rustle scraps of paper and fabric clinging to your walls like it does mine? Did you, will you notice the same neighbors on their daily walks that I do, hear music from the downstairs apartment and start to dance, climb out the window with a blanket and rest on the slight incline of our roof, watch plants flourish and die, sip twice-steeped tea, think about loving and dying right here (unintelligible)?

CARRILLO: While some students looked inward, others zoomed out and really reported on community issues like Savannah Kelley from Northwestern University. She looks at one Iowa high school's response to proposed state legislation that would allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.

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SAVANNAH KELLEY: Two sides had emerged. Students started wearing different colored shirts, blue for LGBTQ allies and white for their opponents.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I remember one guy, he sat next to me in my science class and we always talked and we were always good friends. And the day the shirt thing happened, he wore the other color and didn't look me in the eyes.

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UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Rapping) Please let me out of the cage. Please let me out of the cage.

JOSHUA GORDON: I never even really acknowledged that Jeb Stuart, Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson are hovering above me. But they are.

HASSAN FIELDS: This is America, after all.

CARRILLO: After a summer of protests in Richmond, Va., Gabriela Santana, Joshua Gordon and Hassan Fields from Virginia Commonwealth University reported on the difference between vandalism and art on the statues that surround their campus.

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FIELDS: We set out to try and understand what made this graffiti a disruptive symbol within the community, but we just weren't asking the right questions.

CARRILLO: Brian Le, on the other hand, knew exactly the right questions to ask, and he started with a very important one.

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BRIAN LE: I have a question. Do you like crawfish?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: No.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: No.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Yes.

LE: And have you ever had Vietnamese Cajun crawfish?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: No.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: No.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: No.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: No.

LE: Interesting.

CARRILLO: Le is a junior at Emory University and takes us on the journey of two crawfish named Cajun and Viet as a way of illustrating the Vietnamese American experience through seafood.

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LE: We humans are weird when it comes to food traditions. Food represents culture. It represents history.

CARRILLO: Le says there isn't a lot of Vietnamese Cajun food in New Orleans. He talks about how in a city renowned for its food, people there sometimes get hung up on traditions.

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LE: People get defensive, overly defensive, and quick to call things that go against the grain of tradition to be unacceptable. Steak should only be seasoned with salt, pepper, butter and thyme. Pizza should never have fish as a topping. And crawfish should not be tossed in garlic butter. What do you think?

CARRILLO: The winners of the Student Podcast Challenge College Edition will be announced next week on npr.org Sequoia Carrillo, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEEN DAZE'S "NEW DESTINATION")

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