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These are some of our favorite stories from NPR's Student Podcast Challenge

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

If you listen to us a lot, you know NPR brings a diverse group of voices to our airwaves. But young people are one group we don't get to hear from that often. This year, we asked students to change that with our Student Podcast Challenge. We received over 2,400 entries from students across the country who jammed creativity, innovation and emotion into just eight minutes. The finalists' entries ranged from musicians making it big on TikTok to language barriers in immigrant communities. NPR's Eda Uzunlar listened to hundreds of these podcasts and brings us a few of the very best.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "LOVE AND HATE")

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #1: Could you define hate for us? Is war ever necessary?

EDA UZUNLAR: This year, fifth through 12th graders in the Student Podcast Challenge came in swinging with the kinds of questions adults might shy away from.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "LOVE AND HATE")

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #1: Is it possible to hate someone you once loved?

UZUNLAR: "Love And Hate," by high schoolers Arete Gagnon and Geneveve Schaner in Mendocino, Calif., asks not just what hate is, but love too.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "LOVE AND HATE")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Love is like, OK, when you click shuffle and, like, your - like, the song you're thinking about comes on. Like, love - it feels good, you know? It's like, oh, love.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: I fall in love, like, a hundred times a day.

UZUNLAR: They asked whether there was more love or hate in the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "LOVE AND HATE")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: OK, the media expresses all the hate in the world. But I think that the silent majority has a lot more love.

UZUNLAR: Some students in Hackensack, N.J., decided to interrogate that hate.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "ONE CLICK AWAY: HOW ONLINE EXTREMISM IS HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT")

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #2: There were posts saying the gay agenda will teach my children to be trans.

MATTHEW SUESCAN: There were posts about how the left is using COVID vaccines to put microchips in us.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #3: Satanic sex trafficking ring...

UZUNLAR: Sophia Shin, Matthew Suescan and Emily Zhang discuss the alt-right pipeline on social media.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "ONE CLICK AWAY: HOW ONLINE EXTREMISM IS HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT")

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #2: We were curious to see just how easy it is to become radicalized through this process, so we created a Facebook account with a profile of an average woman in her mid-40s.

UZUNLAR: Then they joined a few right-leaning groups on the site. Pretty soon after, they started to see results.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "ONE CLICK AWAY: HOW ONLINE EXTREMISM IS HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT"

MATTHEW: We saw posts waging violence against politicians like Joe Biden, threats against the LGBTQ community and conspiracies about global politics.

UZUNLAR: But students also reported on all of the opportunities the web presents.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "UNPRECEDENTED AND UNAVOIDABLE: TIKTOK'S EFFECT ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY")

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #4: Tai Verdes was living the life of the quintessential starving artist. That is until he posted a video of him singing from his car on TikTok.

UZUNLAR: Students Justin Alexander and Ben Kirsch in Scarsdale, N.Y., show how TikTok is the place to be if you want to achieve 21st century musical stardom.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STUCK IN THE MIDDLE")

TAI VERDES: (Singing) She said, you can't fool me like that. You're going to leave me on read.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "UNPRECEDENTED AND UNAVOIDABLE: TIKTOK'S EFFECT ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY")

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #4: Just one year later, he's become one of the most popular artists on Spotify, sold out his first world tour and now he has a signature Chipotle bowl.

UZUNLAR: And finding new music has changed, as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "UNPRECEDENTED AND UNAVOIDABLE: TIKTOK'S EFFECT ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY")

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #4: You know, it's nice for me as a music consumer, for, you know, music to be hand-picked by an algorithm.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #5: It does know you really well. Like, it almost knows you better than you know yourself. And it...

UZUNLAR: It wasn't just TikTok success students were thinking about. Whether in the realm of family or fame, students took a hard look at what it means to meet expectations, like in the modeling industry.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "UNCOVERING THE SECRETS OF THE MODELING INDUSTRY")

MATILDA FRIED LEVENSTEIN: Picture this. Everyone's fussing over you. You strut down the runway, all eyes are on you and your gorgeous outfit. Everyone glamorizes being a model - the clothes, the treatment, the excitement, the money.

SHARON MIDDENDORF: You start out with a lot of debt.

UZUNLAR: Matilda Fried Levenstein from New York City dives into the realities of an industry where models are vulnerable to exploitation.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "UNCOVERING THE SECRETS OF THE MODELING INDUSTRY")

MATILDA: Sharon Middendorf tells us about a traumatic time when she was traveling as a model.

MIDDENDORF: I'll never forget a guy was sitting next to me, and he started putting his hand on my lap. And it was really scary.

UZUNLAR: In Powell, Ohio, Monnishaa Tambe found her own success in learning language.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUDENT PODCAST)

MONNISHAA TAMBE: This is the story of a dream that has used language as a connector to bring generations together.

UZUNLAR: She interviewed her teachers at her Marathi language school.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUDENT PODCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED TEACHER: Language is more than - much more than just a means of communication. It is your connection to the culture. It gives you the feeling of belongingness. And many times, it gives you an identity.

UZUNLAR: Since learning Marathi, she's been able to ease her feelings of being an outsider and learn more about her family's traditions and background.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUDENT PODCAST)

MONNISHAA: And it made me more comfortable under my own skin. I was not shy anymore to talk about our festivals in class. I was sharing the special sweets my mom made at home with my friends. Marathi school gave me the confidence to be myself.

UZUNLAR: Other students are combating misconceptions about central parts of their identity, like what you can and can't do with a disability.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE IMPORTANCE OF INCLUSIVE DANCE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES")

GRETA BAIER: Disability doesn't give or take away talent. Rather, it simply limits your opportunities.

UZUNLAR: Greta Baier is a middle school student from New York City who uses a wheelchair, trach and ventilator, but it doesn't stop her from dancing with two different companies.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE IMPORTANCE OF INCLUSIVE DANCE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES")

GRETA: I'm not able to lift my arms up very high, so I will sometimes articulate movement through my fingers or through the rotation of my head.

UZUNLAR: Identity was the focus of middle schooler Jeremy Liew's podcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "WHO AM I?")

JEREMY LIEW: I'm walking down Avenue of the Americas in New York City. Someone says (non-English language spoken). Do they see me as Chinese or American?

UZUNLAR: Jeremy explores the history behind whether or not someone is counted as an American.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "WHO AM I?")

JEREMY: In the past, someone else defined you. But today, one's identity is much more of a personal journey based on self-determination. Though one cannot change the opinion of others, it is up to you to decide who you are.

UZUNLAR: Despite the challenges of growing up in 2022, thousands of minutes of student podcasts show that they're asking the right questions. They're facing their obstacles head on, and they're brighter, sillier and more curious than ever before. Eda Uzunlar, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.