CNS Women’s Month Series: VOX ATL Teaches Teens the Basics of Journalism to Give Them Essential Life Skills and Empower Self-Expression

This article is a part of the Carvd N Stone 2024 Women’s Month Series. We are highlighting a woman-owned business from Milwaukee, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles.

Intergenerational Work

When it comes to self-expression the perspectives of teenagers are often overlooked. Charaun Cash is the executive director for VOX ATL, a teen-led nonprofit organization in Atlanta that publishes youth journalists on their site and in print. 

Cash came into the position in 2023 and she uses her personal experiences with censorship to promote a safe space where teens can express themselves. She defines herself as a journalist adjacent and does her own photography and designs. 

Charaun Cash, executive director of VOX ATL. (Picture by VOX ATL)
Charaun Cash, executive director of VOX ATL. (Picture by VOX ATL)

“The idea is really for teens to share their piece, share their lived experience and that is so powerful to me,” said Cash. “I resonated with that need to be heard, especially amongst adults who felt my experiences were not relevant or impactful enough to be able to provide or make an impact on the world.”

During her years in college, Cash was a part of the newsletter committee for a scholarship she earned as a student at Ohio State University where she ran one of the most-read opinion columns called “Charant”.

“I was told ‘be more positive, don’t shine the light on the negative’, but I was like it’s real and people want to read it,” said Cash. “You know the idea of being censored was a bad feeling and I didn’t like it so I would hate for that to happen to any other teen.”

Who is VOX ATL

VOX ATL calls itself the home of uncensored teen publishing and expression. Also known as Vox Teen Communications, the organization was founded in 1993 by Rachel Alterman Wallack. The publication organization was a response to the 1988 United States Supreme Court ruling in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. This verdict allows schools to censor what’s said in school newspapers.

The organization has fellowships, summer camps, and workshops that experienced journalists lead so students can study the aspects of storytelling.

“Teens will become more likely to want to share and want to tell stories if they feel like people cared about them,” said Cash. “The more you write the better you become and having published work to see your growth over time is important too.”

Among the programs offered at Vox ATL is the Vox Media Café. This is a two-week in-person skill-building session offered to teens 13-19 years old in metro Atlanta. Participants will work on journalism, interviewing, podcasting, videography, photography, and public speaking. By the end of the two weeks, the teens will have produced a multimedia project of their choice to be published on the online site.

Other Vox ATL programs include Atlanta Word Works, Vox Investigates, and Vox ATL’s mental health coverage and community workshops.

Journalism is Fundamental

Cash believes that teens deserve a space where they are comfortable being their authentic selves and that the lessons they learn with the publication can be applied in various areas of their lives.

“Journalism, even if you don’t pursue a career in journalism, the skill set of researching, confronting truth or even interviewing and public speaking and being able to amplify the reason a person should care about a certain topic, that transcends industries,” said Cash.

Currently, Vox ATL serves 100 teens across five counties in Atlanta. Some students are more interested in poetry while others want to be in leadership roles. Still, they all receive exposure to basic skills of journalism including the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.

To read VOX ATL content click here.

Maria Peralta-Arellano is a Milwaukee-native journalist who focuses on sharing news from her local communities. She dedicates her work to accessibility and producing bilingual coverage focused on arts, culture, and politics. She looks to explore her community through a journalistic and creative lens.

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