High school student Jessica Aimunmondion had an interesting challenge before her: As part of her paid internship with Audible, she and her fellow students would get to make their own podcasts, with close mentoring from top professionals and access to all the equipment they’d need. Now Aimunmondion just had to come up with a good subject. She decided to use the opportunity to learn more about her Nigerian roots, delving into Nigeria’s rich history, political struggles, and civil war. She invited her grandfather to share his experience and discuss how the country’s turbulent past has affected its present, and what can be done to create a brighter future. The resulting podcast, Breaking Dawn, which Aimunmondian presented at the end of her internship, is informative and engrossing, melding documentary and memoir through Nigerian music and voices.
In spite of having to schedule interviews across time zones and editing so much her fingers cramped up, Aimunmondion says that the hours spent researching Nigeria’s history and talking with her grandfather made it all worthwhile. “It taught me a lot about the history of my country,” she said.
Audible’s paid internship for Newark high school students has been offered for 14 years as part of the company’s mission to cultivate the city’s next generation of leaders. In October 2020, Audible piloted a new program within the internship, teaching a remote 12-week podcasting masterclass to a small group of students from Newark’s North Star Academy, including Aimunmondion.
The addition of a podcasting masterclass exposes interns to another of Audible’s core missions, which is to create a diverse talent pipeline for creatives of all types in the audio industry. This effort includes providing workshops, training, and mentoring in acting and writing as well as sound engineering and production in the US, the UK, Australia, and Germany.
Equipped with gear from Audible Studios, the interns took part in employee-led tutorials that focused on different aspects of the process, from pitching an idea to writing, editing, and recording, through post-production, marketing, and promotion. Rebecca Takyi, an intern on the content team, knew she wanted her podcast to be about the arts. Brainstorming with mentor Emilia LaPenta, a senior producer for Audible Theater, she decided to bring in her older sister for a deep-dive into the legacy of artists across generations and the importance of exploring music beyond one’s generational scope. In Naming Greatness, the multi-generational siblings discussed the cultural, political, and artistic impact of icons from different decades, from Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin to Lauryn Hill and Mariah Carey to Beyoncé.
“The process was very long, but fun,” Takyi told her peers and instructors. “The outcome was phenomenal. I was proud of myself.”
LaPenta points out that, just as the students benefit from the opportunity to learn audio storytelling, the landscape itself benefits from their ideas and voices. “They came to the program with fresh insights and imaginative concepts, pushing the form forward with their unique perspectives and innovations,” she says.
Mental health was the subject of more than one podcast. Michael Torto, also an intern on the content team, explored mental health in the face of racial injustice and Covid-19. For Our Voices, Our Story, Our Experience, he invited a fellow North Star student to discuss coping with the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor against the backdrop of the pandemic, and how it may be affecting the mental health of younger generations.
Similarly, Edna Agyemang brought in a friend for her podcast, It Had To Be Said, to discuss mental health in the context of the dangers of beauty standards. The result is a high-energy, conversational deep dive into colorism, “pretty privilege,” and the influencer culture encountered on digital platforms like TikTok. Agyemang reported that the editing process helped her get over the discomfort of hearing herself in a recording.
Even though she wasn’t a podcast listener before, Aimunmondion is already planning future episodes of Breaking Dawn. Dave Blum, editor-in-chief of Audible Originals, is glad to hear that. “I really hope you keep doing this,” he told the group during their final meeting. “We need you in the audio space.”