2023 Student Podcast Challenge Winner Georgianna McKenny

By Caleb Youngblood, Public Relations Coordinator

June 21, 2023

National Public Radio (NPR) is an independent, nonprofit media organization that was founded on a mission to create a more informed public. Their Student Podcast Challenge was developed in 2019 to encourage students from around the country to create a podcast and compete for a chance to have their work recognized. This year they received over 3,300 entries, from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.


Everyone anticipated that Jackson’s water crisis would affect its public schools. However, while leaders worried about test scores and attendance statistics, MSMS student Georgianna McKenny (c/o 2024) knew the ways schools coped with intangibles would be the true measurement of their response to the crisis. Without running water, cafeterias could not feed students the same quality or variety of food, and there would be issues involving access to bathrooms. She saw the school day unfolding from the perspective of a kid rather than an adult, and that’s why she was selected as the 2023 High School National Public Radio Student Podcast Challenge Grand Prize winner.


McKenny took a composition class that makes the creation of a podcast the capstone of the course. Dr. Thomas Easterling, who has taught the course for the last three years, said he wanted students to understand that their work as scholars also makes them better citizens. “The research papers they do for the course require them to dive into primary documents and conduct interviews about a person or event from their hometown,” he said. “They come to understand how their subjects fit into the fabric of local culture. Then they have to translate their academic work into something that people will want to listen to in a general interest podcast. The results have been wonderful.”


Students have their work published to the “Real Mississippi” podcast, which is available on Spotify and other podcast platforms. More than 30 MSMS students also had their work included in Real Mississippi this year. In addition to McKenny’s success, MSMS has had two finalists and four honorable mention winners since its students began participating in the Student Podcast Challenge in 2021.


Follow “Real Mississippi” on Spotify and listen to McKenny’s award-winning podcast “How the Jackson Water Crisis Affects Education.


Visit NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge 2023 to learn more.