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High school senior Kanchan Naik is concerned that the pandemic is changing the college application process. She worries that she won’t get into her dream school because of the challenges of the COVID-19 conditions affecting her classes and extracurricular activities.

Most high school students would discuss those concerns with their parents or their friends. Naik doesn’t stop there. She went on the “Teen Talks” podcast to discuss her concerns with podcaster Yashvardhan Khaitan on Sept. 9, 2020.

“Teen Talks” is a podcast started and operated by Las Positas Middle College student Khaitan. It features Tri-Valley community students who discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on their mental health. Tenn Talks podcast gets about 1000 hits a month. 

During the pandemic, Khaitan noticed emerging problems in his mental health. Khaitan said, “I started losing grip on my daily tasks. I realized that I wasn’t on the right track in terms of my mental health. This led me to create the ‘Teen Talks Podcast’ to address my situation dealing with this pandemic’s fallout, and later I realized that it was bringing me closer to other teenagers in the community who are going through this.”

Kaitan believes that his podcast will improve the mental health of others like himself who are suffering due to the pandemic. “I think mental health is something that all students and parents should understand, especially during this tough time. It can be very easy for students to go in the wrong direction and pose harm to themselves while stuck at home and isolated from society. This podcast will help students feel like they are not alone and that there are others in the same boat as them. Furthermore, this podcast will also help parents understand what their children are going through and how to further aid them. “

The first podcast aired on June 12, 2020, and continues to broadcast weekly. Every week, Khaitan interviews a new high school student about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting them.

On the podcast, students voice their concerns about how the pandemic will affect their future. A common concern of the students interviewed is college applications. Students have concerns and questions about how the shelter in place will affect their college applications and admissions. Is the SAT required when the SAT sessions have been cancelled? What about the fact that many colleges do not have in-person campus visits and tours? And how will students that become enrolled get involved in extracurricular activities when the campuses remain closed.

“This podcast is a great listen. It offers a fresh perspective from students who were directly affected by COVID-19.  Everyone needs to listen to these vital conversations to understand how young people are dealing with this monumental change. As a student, listening to this podcast makes me realize I am not the only one. Other students face the same problem,” said Pratham Dalal, a senior at Dublin High School.

Khaitan’s podcast has shown that students are missing the social interaction of in-person school. Dalal was disappointed that he did not get to say goodbye to his friends at school. When classes were abruptly cancelled and transferred to online, many students expected the change to be temporary, two weeks or so — not until the start of the next school year. Students like Dalal thought they would see their friends in school before the summer. Student activities such as proms and in-person graduation ceremonies were cancelled, further separating students from their peers.

Kaitan says he spends about five to six hours on each podcast. When he first got the idea of the podcast, he contacted a few of his friends from Dublin High School to be the first students interviewed. Afterwards, he reached out to students, student body leaders and young activists to find people for the podcast. 

Kaitan did not consult with any experts to start his podcast but figured it out on his own. His parents support his podcast as they think it is a great community initiative during the pandemic, helping  students cope with the COVID-19 situation better.

Now that 16 episodes of the “Teen Talks Podcast” have been posted, Kaitan’s email is full with mail from students across the Tri-Valley. They want to share their feelings and experiences of this tumultuous time on the podcast.

The “Teen Talks Podcast” can be found on Spotify, or Apple podcasts.

Alan Lewis is the photo editor of The Express. Follow him @alolewis1.

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