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News Release

For immediate use

May 8, 2006 -- No. 250

UNC partners with Hispanic youth
to launch Spanish-language radio show

CHAPEL HILL - A grassroots radio program produced by Hispanic youth for the Hispanic community is set to launch June 2, and faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are a part of the action.

Radio Pa'lante (pronounced pah-LON-tay), which means "let's roll" in Spanish, is a weekly teen-produced public affairs and music program that will air on Friday afternoons on WCOM (103.5 FM), a low-power station based out of neighboring Carrboro.

It is run by Pa'lante Inc., a Chapel Hill-Carrboro nonprofit started three years ago by Carrboro resident and UNC graduate Laura Wenzel to involve Hispanic youth in integrating the immigrant community in Orange County. One of the group's early projects was the Pa'lante magazine, a youth-produced quarterly magazine that stopped publishing last year.

When a community coalition started the WCOM station in Carrboro, Wenzel submitted a proposal for Radio Pa'lante, and it was approved in 2005.

UNC became involved when Dr. Carol Ford, director of the adolescent medicine program at UNC's School of Medicine, and Dr. Lucila Vargas, associate professor in UNC's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, applied for a grant to help launch and study the program.

Ford and Vargas received a grant from the 2006 Strowd Roses Faculty Fund of the Carolina Center for Public Service. Both have done research on Hispanic issues in their fields of study. Vargas has done more than 10 years of research on Hispanic youth and the media. She also wrote "Social Uses and Radio Practices: The Use of Radio by Ethnic Minorities in Mexico" (Westview Press, 1995). Ford provides clinical and research expertise on the health needs of Hispanic youth.

"I just think this is an example of the wonderful opportunities there are to connect people from very different backgrounds and perspectives and to support these young people doing something positive for their community," said Ford, who has researched the health needs of Hispanic youth through the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, based at UNC's Carolina Population Center.

"I conducted a research project with a Latina physician from Columbia, South America, who attended the UNC School of Public Health to obtain her doctorate degree in epidemiology," Ford said. "We found out that when you look at different groups of different Latino teens in the United States, it's really the Mexican teens that are least likely to be connected health care. Part of it has to do with lack of health insurance, and part of it is related to cultural beliefs and cultural understandings of health and illness. It may be possible use Radio Pa'lante to help Mexican teens and young adults get connected to health care and get their parents and grandparents connected, too."

Radio Pa'lante, produced by a staff of eight students from Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill high schools, will focus on issues not unlike those addressed in the original Pa'lante magazine, such as family health and the basics of local government.

Vargas, who has worked with Pa'lante magazine and other youth-produced Spanish-language publications, said the radio medium is one of the most important for Hispanic communities because it is easy to consume and it is cost effective. She said she looks forward to studying production of Hispanic youth radio.

"For me it's very exciting because radio is such a great medium for ethnic minorities and it's very inexpensive to produce," she said.

Programming will feature a community calendar, interviews by students and music selections.

Strowd Roses Faculty funding went toward the creation of a Radio Pa'lante working group, which includes advisers from the University Center for International Studies, the Institute of Latin American Studies and the schools of journalism and mass communication, medicine and public health.

"We'll definitely be plugging into the knowledge that is available at UNC and through the members of our working group," Wenzel said. "When they said they wanted to do some research with Pa'lante and they wanted to get this grant so we could exist, it was like, 'Wow - manna from heaven.'"

The Strowd Roses Faculty Fund through the Carolina Center for Public Service provides faculty with seed grants to create or enhance projects to improve the quality of life for citizens of the greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. Three grants were awarded this year, in the range of $5,000 to $7,500, to fund projects connected to a faculty member's field of scholarship.

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(Jim Walsh, a junior journalism and mass communication major from Winston-Salem, wrote this release for UNC News Services.)

Note: Contact Ford at (919) 966-2505 or Contact Vargas at (919) 962-2366 or Contact Wenzel at (919) 619-1023 or

News Services contact: Broadcast: Karen Moon, (919) 962-9585 or