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2022 Graduate Rebekah Poteet Receives Honorable Mention in New York Times Podcast Contest

Cleburne High School 2022 graduate Rebekah Poteet’s ability to tell a story has led to an Honorable Mention in The New York Times Fifth Annual Student Podcast Contest.

                Poteet’s entry “Look in a Book,” was one of 12 by CHS seniors chosen for submission to the national podcast competition open to students ages 11-18. This was a record year for responses, with the newspaper reporting 1,664 entries. Poteet’s was one of 29 chosen for the Honorable Mention recognition. The link to her entry can be found here: 

The New York Times competition stipulated podcast entries be five minutes or less,  and should inform or entertain. Poteet’s did both, as she talked about the value, power and joy of reading.

“Reading saved me during the COVID quarantine,” she said. “I was stuck at home for hours on end—I thought I would go crazy. I was in desperate need of escape—and I thought ‘why not reading?’ It took me away from the world of negative news. I visited so many places through books, going on an adventure every time. I read for the life I craved—adventure, love, happiness. I wanted to feel something through reading—and I did.”

 This is the first year English IV teachers Piper Davis, Angela Carrizales-Fink, Matthew Hilts and Lindsey Parker have included the podcast project in their senior research assignments. The podcast challenge could be done individually or as a team, using interviews, sound effects, music, narratives—with the goal of creating a compelling listening experience.

“We wanted the podcast project to provide a unique opportunity for our grade level students to shine, and showcase their talents,” senior English teacher Piper Davis said. “We felt our students would rise to this new learning challenge and experience some great success in the process—and that’s just what happened. We intend to continue with this podcast project in the upcoming school year.”

Poteet admits she wasn’t totally on board with the podcast project when it was first announced.

“I wasn’t sure about it,” Poteet said. “At the time, I thought I would much rather write a paper. But as we started working on it, and thought about the topics we liked, I had three ideas—Harry Potter, singing and reading. I was a member of the CHS Chorale and love singing—and I love reading.”

                Reading won out, and Poteet began developing her script, its content, message and added enhancements. But the task didn’t end there, as she also had to get behind the microphone to record her podcast, then edit her work.

                “When the time came to record, I was still reluctant about it all,” she said. “But I felt I had written a good script. When it came to editing, I was overwhelmed at first. We learned how to clip sounds, find music—and I was able to cut out my snuffling, as I had a bad case of allergies the day I recorded.”

 “From there, I had to blend it all together,” Poteet said. “I think I listened to my podcast a thousand times—to the point I was hating it. But when I heard the final recording, I really liked it. I liked what I had done.”

So did the panel of community and faculty judges who reviewed the podcasts recorded by the CHS seniors to determine the 12 entries that would be submitted to The New York Times competition. Among the judges was 2019 Cleburne graduate Tarek Arouse, co-producer of the “This is Absurd!” podcast.

Cleburne High School teachers also contributed to a college and career scholarship just for senior podcasters, with Poteet selected as one of three recipients.

Between wrapping up her senior year and the anticipation of graduation exercises, Poteet soon forgot about her podcast submission.

“When Mrs. Davis told me I had received Honorable Mention, I felt pretty great,” Poteet said. “I had actually received an email from The New York Times, but I was at work at the time. I had to fill out a form allowing my name and entry to be included in their release of winners. It felt so cool to do that.”

It was also special for her teacher, who had the honor of presenting Poteet to the CISD Board of Trustees, who recognized the podcaster at their July school board meeting.

“Rebekah worked hard on her podcast and she deserves this recognition,” Davis said. “This honorable mention is a major achievement. Entries not only came from all over the U.S. but also from some prestigious international schools. Only a few students from Texas placed at all—and our own Rebekah was one of them. This is a huge achievement for her, personally, and for Cleburne High School as well.”

“This shows how well our students are learning to communicate their ideas, using 21st century technologies that will amplify their voices to connect with broad and diverse audiences,” Davis said.  “We are indebted to our community in passing bond elections that have provided for state-of-the-art technology for our students that makes projects like this possible.”

Poteet, who will be continuing her studies in cosmetology at Hill College, says her first podcasting experience proved to be a great one—and she’s ready for more.

“I definitely have more confidence in my writing,” she said. “I never felt I was good at it—but maybe I am. And I have been told I have a good podcasting voice—people enjoy listening to me. I’ve thought about writing more podcasts, talking about things I like—and seeing where it goes. It’s really, really, fun.”