Illustration by Emily Whang

Oregon | July 2021

What does it mean to be an American?

We are finding, coaching and training public media’s next generation. This #nprnextgenradio project is created in Oregon, where four talented reporters are participating in a week-long state-of-the-art training program.

In this project we are speaking to people from various walks of life—whether they are Indigenous, native born, a naturalized citizen, a refugee or an immigrant without legal status—to ask what it means to be an American.

illustration of boy looking down from the sky and holding what appears to be a boat filled with miniature people.

Being low-income doesn’t make you less of an American

Andrew Mendez


Damien Wheeler grew up in a low income community in Vancouver, Washington. He now works giving back to that same neighborhood, lifting families out of poverty and helping them become more knowledgeable citizens.

The United States flag waves in the background. In front is an illustration of a bald, white man in a green T-shirt. To his right is a photograph of four middle-aged people and two white dogs with brown spots. To his left is a group of five stern-looking men.

Regaining freedom to choose: Formerly incarcerated man prioritizes family, forgiveness, and self-determination

Andrew Mendez

Steven Stroud’s identity was once intertwined with racism and substance abuse. Then he spent 13 years in prison and everything changed.

Image is an illustration of a curtain opening to show a man on a performance stage. He is sitting on a stool next to a pedestal table on which is a bottle and a briefcase.

Plays in prisons: How a Portland actor connects adults in custody with classic Greek theater 

Andrew Mendez

For over 20 years, Paul Susi has performed classical theater to discover different parts of himself. Now, he works to bring prisoners closer to the outside world through the arts.


Image is an illustration of a man holding a baby while sitting on a chair, lounging in a green backyard.

Creativity helps an asylum seeker, artist, and father build a life in America

Andrew Mendez

Manuel de Jesus Isasi Hernandez is a Honduran native awaiting asylum in the United States. But while he had begun to plant emotional roots in the Pacific Northwest, his legal journey was taking a different route. 


The Next Generation Radio Project is a week-long digital journalism training project designed to give competitively selected participants, who are interested in radio and journalism, the skills and opportunity to report and produce their own multimedia story. Those chosen for the project are paired with a professional journalist who serves as their mentor.

This edition of the #NPRNextGenRadio project was produced in collaboration with Oregon Public Broadcasting in July 2021.

  • Managing Editor – Traci Tong, Editor, Public Media Journalists Association
  • Digital Editors – Amara Aguilar, University of Southern California; and Kylene Yumul, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Audio Tech – Selena Seay-Reynolds, Freelancer Audio Engineer, Los Angeles
  • Illustrators – Yunyi Dai, Baltimore; Lauren Ibanez, Houston; Ard Su, New York; and Emily Whang, Los Angeles
  • Visuals – Erica Lee, Freelance Visual Journalist, Jersey City, New Jersey
  • Web Developer – Robert Boos, Metropolitan State, Minneapolis

Our journalist/mentors for this project were:

  • Mariana Dale, Early Childhood Education Reporter, KPCC
  • Elizabeth Miller, Education Reporter, Oregon Public Broadcasting
  • Donald Orr, Joan Cirillo Emerging Journalists Fellow, Oregon Public Broadcasting
  • Meerah Powell, Higher Education Reporter, Oregon Public Broadcasting

NPR’s Next Generation Radio program is directed by its founder, Doug Mitchell.