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Alexandria Houston

Interview by Sydnie Davis.

Audio Transcription

Sydnie J Davis 0:01  
Oh, hello. There we go. Yeah. Okay. Okay.
All right. So thank you so much for doing this interview with me. So I'm going to run through a few preliminary questions. And just you know, a not age, name, demographic that situation and then we'll get started into the interview. Okay. So can you please state your first and last name?

Alexandria Houston  0:32  
I am Alexandria Houston.

Sydnie J Davis  0:36  
And can you tell us what years you were in the Teen Appeal program?

Alexandria Houston  0:42  
I was in Teen Appeal. Please, like 2002? three, or four? Like the timeframe? 2002? To 2004. Okay.

Sydnie J Davis  0:59  
And are you okay? And with allowing us to use this audio and potentially videos and screenshots from today's recording to use in our podcast?

Alexandria Houston  1:10  
I am. 

Sydnie J Davis 1:11  
Alright, well, let's get started. So do you prefer Alexandria? Or Alex would? What do you prefer? 

Alexandria Houston  1:18  
Um, I asked the writer and creative. It just depends on the platform. It really, I'm giving you the opportunity to choose whichever one because I mean, if I was writing, of course, is Alexandra is their professional, very formal. But if we're just having an open conversation dialogue, Alex is fine. So either one, it really doesn't matter. But it does matter.

Sydnie J Davis  1:49  
Completely. I'll make sure that we use Alex in any writings and anything that we put down in content. And just I mean, Alexandria for written content, and anything that will be attached to some of the writing samples, if we pull those. And then here in the interview, I'll just say, Alex, that you said that you were in Teen Appeal in the early 2000s. 2002- 2003. What was your position?

Alexandria Houston  2:14  
I was a writer.

Sydnie J Davis  2:15  
And were you a writer all all two years or three years? 

Alexandria Houston  2:19  

Sydnie J Davis  2:20  
What were some of the different things that you would do in terms of content? Like what would you write about?

Alexandria Houston  2:26  
Oh, we wrote about? Well, I believe at that time, when I was a part of the Teen Appeal, we wrote things related to our high school. And then, excuse me, so then each, I don't know how the stories were chosen, or matched. Because there wasn't a particular theme or anything, but I know, somewhat each high school had a representative to a certain degree. And you would just, I don't even know what I publish. I know, I maybe wrote something about prom in high school, they, um What else? And then I do remember, we had a conference. And I met and i still, it is two people that I still talk to will somewhat talk to one he was the photographer for Teen appeal. But he was at a different high school. And then earlier lady, she was a writing for another high school. So I would just say it was just various high school topics. At that particular time, like what's next after you graduate? Like what colleges are you all looking to? Of course, Prom, 

Sydnie J Davis  3:50  
like the daily livings and daily things? 

Alexandria Houston  3:53  
Yeah. Um, you said you mentioned the other two people. Do you happen to know who they are? What their names are? Yes. Kenneth Cummings. He was. He did a lot of the photography. And then we just so happened to have ended up at TSU together. And I was like, Oh my gosh, like some some of the names you will see but not officially meet. And then Shamika Cunningham. She was a writer and we talk like not often but it just connect and you know, Facebook, Instagram, things like that. So, but those are the two I know for sure. That were a part of the Teen Appeal what I was and yeah, just highly creative people.

Sydnie J Davis  4:44  
You know, speaking of highly creative, I mean, being a part of an organization, a program like this was fairly new. It started in the late 90s, early 2000s. So you were in one of more the senior classes of Teen Appeal, it went on into the late 2000s. So almost 10-15 years. When you started in the program, what were you hoping to get out of it?

Alexandria Houston  5:07  
Oh, honestly, I'm naturally just a writer I just wanted to write because I used to. My grandmother was submit my little poems and creative writings to Highlights for Children. Um, I would do little write write ups and mock ups for the church. I will actually write little stuff to the actual Commercial Appeal. Just like I was a journaler or a journal, I still do, I just like to write get it out. And I actually went to Tennessee State University to pursue journalism. But I did not like the lack of freedom that now you know, most journalists and stuff and you can you can really say however, whatever, it doesn't have to subject verb agree or anything.

Sydnie J Davis  6:04  
So no longer have  requirements.

Alexandria Houston  6:08  
Yeah, it's like, if it's, you know, and then if it trends to a certain degree, we're gonna just we're going to make it a word anyway, even if y'all isn't y'all. But it's y'all ain't isn't anybody's I was like, wow. So just then the transition in the flexibility, a little bit more now with and then too with social media has created more writers in the platform of being able to tweet and say what's on your mind. So if that was a little more permanent, probably, then I probably wouldn't have been a part of the teen appeal, but I was a part of the TSU newspaper as well. So I just I just like I said, just, I'm nosy. I like to inform, but I like to inform Great, good information. And I'm also I just like to write so and I love words, so that that was what I always that's what really captured me. And at that time, when you use the words properly formed great sentence structure, and a great strong store, it meant something so

Sydnie J Davis  7:18  
No, that's wonderful. I have to ask, Was you the participation in Teen Appeal? Did that push you to that journalism degree at TSU? Or did you already kind of have that in mind?

Alexandria Houston  7:30  
I believe it pushed me more. So it enhanced it because I did that. And then it was another program when my high school where we partnered with the radio station as well. So like, in the words of my grandma, I am a, I have the gift of gab, but just because you have the gift of gab, you also I like when I do all these personality assessments. I am my story teller just by nature. And it's just innately in me to just tell a story, try to tell it well and factual. And with a little creative ump to it too.

Sydnie J Davis  8:15  
I think that's amazing. In terms of that, like fact finding aspect, you had a bunch of coordinators, and you know, you had adults that were supporting you, possibly even faculty and staff from University of Memphis that were supporting the Teen Appeal program, what did it look like? Like? Not necessarily the training, but like, What insight did you get from the adults in your life when you were working at Teen Appeal ? Because I'm sure you as the students, you know, lead a lot of the conversations were there. How was that in terms of working with the staff members that were connected to the program?

Alexandria Houston  8:49  
Honestly, from what I remember, they gave us a lot of academic freedom. It seems like I I can't recall compared to when I transitioned into college. Having you know, stipulations of like, don't write about this, don't do this. And so now as I think about it to me, I probably could have written a little bit more and dive a little more deeper, but at the same time Yeah, it was. It was like just expressive just if it got approved for the next publication. It did if it didn't, it wasn't anything like hostile about it, or like any type of oh, why didn't didn't post my story. Like I feel like they had the best interest in that story. Regardless if it was public, published, public, public, published or not.

Sydnie J Davis  9:54  
We still felt even though that they were, you know, maybe trimming things down and editing them. that you still had, you know, that freedom to tell your stories-

Alexandria Houston  10:04  

Sydnie J Davis 10:04  
-that were essentially speaking to students from students? Um, what do you do now? What is your profession? Is it still something that is connected to JRSM like journalism or strategic marketing?

Alexandria Houston 10:18  
It is? Well, ah, not officially. So I am a - I teach freshman orientation,  at Tenneessee State University. So storytelling, being a professor, and then I'm also I serve as academic advisor. So storytelling, giving you the tools and resources on how we're going to maneuver through college, but the specialty with my department, we specialize in first generation college students. So these are students who are going down that rabbit hole of trying to go to college by themselves. Do I help a lot with essays. Just unconsciously, I still have a connection to writing, even though I don't do it fully. Like I'm always like, Oh, no, you should have run it this way. You're like critiquing it this way. Or if we have an assignment where we're able to be free in creative writing, I'm all in so honestly I do ,I do long as I'm able to, like I say, have a curiosity of just being like, far as human being like, we're constantly growing and learning. That's what excites me. And, you know, we're all storytellers, because we're all telling somebody something every day is, whoa, look what I saw on Facebook. Ooh, did you see there he posts? Oh, did you? Did you see the traffic? Oh, this person got on my nerves today at work. Whoa, you know, we're always subconsciously telling the story. But at the same time, I feel like when you're in those roles as a journalist, and editor, it's your duty to tell the story but very factual with, you know, sustenance to, but like I said, we're in a generation where it's a little more lax, which I mean. You know, a lot of fact, checking as not.

Sydnie J Davis  12:30  
Students could benefit from another program like Teen Appeal, where, you know, they sit down and they explain like the structure and you know, your responsibility as a writer or an editor, or someone who's going out, in fact, finding it. I mean, social media is a vast, I mean, it's a vast space. The Last Frontier, and the way that you know, everyone has a keyboard, regardless if it's on their phone or their laptop. And I think that's what made Teen Appeals so special is that it brought these opportunities to an area that was one of minority.

Alexandria Houston  13:06  

Sydnie J Davis  13:07  
necessarily have the same amount of resources as maybe other schools that had school newspaper. I mean, this was If correct me if I'm wrong, but this was community wide, it was a bunch of different high schools. It wasn't just one right.

Alexandria Houston  13:19  

Sydnie J Davis  13:20  
What high school were you at?  

Alexandria Houston  13:21  
I was at Wooddale High School. And if I was at home and Memphis at my grandmother's house and I go to my little life box I'm sure well, I know there are some articles there that I have because I'm also you know, when you're into writing and journalism I'm so what a historian because you want the facts you hold on to them  so I still have some Teen Appeal papers somewhere.

Sydnie J Davis

We would absolutely love anything that you think you might be able to, like scan us or someone can come like grab and take pictures of we actually have been scanning every teen appeal issue that we can find. And we have a ton so if I'm actually going to go back and comb through and see if I can find your name. If I can find any art I mean, we I believe we have them from like 99 up until now.

Alexandria Houston

Oh, wow. Like yeah, so if I could get my sister so to go through my little box, I know I have up because like I said I do not throw things it's like a good and a bad thing. Another random fun fact. I um, I probably have every card from five years. No, not probably I have every card from five to current in my 30s.

Sydnie J Davis  14:41  
So in terms of stationery, that was your thing you love.


Alexandria Houston

Yes. Oh, yes, stationery only only supported you as a writer within the program. Great pencils. Pencil sharpener. Folders. Yes. Lisa Frank.

Sydnie J Davis 15:02  
is there anything from that time, like if you know what you know, now, especially working with students, and you know, a different, I mean higher education, but still working with students, you are now sitting in the places the people that brought you through Teen Appeal, supporting the students trying to get them to find their passions and hone those in and turn them into like tangible skills. Like what would you do? Like what would you do then like, if you know that this is where you were going to end up and you were going to be kind of in the same position? Is there anything that you would have done more of, or

Alexandria Houston  15:34  
Probably one how I would have wrote more controversial things, more so than fluff and rainbows and butterflies. Because around the Teen Appeal time, I was more AB poetry, skein. Now, I would, and I probably want it to shake the cradle. But the thing too, I'm around that the early 2000s. Not saying teenagers don't have respect for authority and what people think we really value. So us having an actual voice on that platform, could have been very like could have got a little deeper than what it was. But it was the respect of home and don't embarrass the family, these unspoken things in the community that you just wouldn't talk about. So I feel like we definitely could have, you know, maybe read more about sexual education, even budgeting and things like that, but you just didn't hop on certain things. Because it's like, You're embarrassed and a family or, you know, stay in a child's place.

Sydnie J Davis  17:04  
Yeah, where those conversations have behind like meeting room doors? where you guys talked about things that you felt might might be controversial, like and say, hey, you know, maybe we should just try it. And then it was essentially just kind of shot down? 

Alexandria Houston  17:18  
I don't see on or was it? I just feel like we talked about it, but it was always we played it safe. 

Sydnie J Davis 17:26  
Gotcha. I will say some of the some of the, the entries that I've seen as we've been scanning, they get a little bit they get they they kind of toe the line a little bit in terms of like maybe what we feel that children should talk about and not and I think you can see the progression from like the early years where it kind of started as this fun, this fun thing where there were points where the newspaper talked about topics that they felt might be a little touchy. So I mean, if you ever want to look down memory lane, I'm sure once you graduated, Teen Appeal  kind of kind of went behind you. But students did do a lot of fun stuff. And we're hoping that with the podcasts, we'll be able to show that. Is there something is there a memory that you just look back on fondly, and just that you wouldn't mind sharing?

Alexandria Houston  18:16  
Know if we had like it was a dinner or celebration, or it was something but that's when you really because you got to see the you know, the listings of the person name, but when you actually got to have like, I don't know what it was called, but everyone from our different high schools for together. And you got to put the name with the person that just really topped it off. Because I mean, if you're over here in Hamilton and I met Wooddale, it was no way that I was just going to see you I just saw your name printed in my Oh, wow. And they had two there wasn't a time where I can go follow me on Facebook and see who this is. It was literally like I would have to reach out to Teen Appeal  you ask who this person is, can I get their number? Hey, let's meet but you still want wasn't thinking like that. And then two I feel like it was one time I wanted to do like a like a battle of the high school type column like what my high school do better than yours type thing. Because you know, those around there, bring it on error. So it was like, everybody got this friendly banter. But, um, so I would have probably enjoyed doing that a little bit more. But like I said, overall, I would just excited to write submit and get the feet and I enjoyed the feedback too because they help you know the growth of the writing. 

Sydnie J Davis  19:54  
No, I think that's that's great. It's really fun to see you what you might have been thinking back then and like, 

Alexandria Houston  20:01  
I know. 

Sydnie J Davis 20:04  
And I mean, just to finish up, was there a particular staff member, you know, adult that you remember that really played a part in? Like your success in the program? Was there anyone that you really just remember? Or was it more students or just someelse ?

Alexandria Houston  20:22  
It was more of the students that was that, but if I saw their name, it probably would like, Alright, oh, wow. Yeah, that person, but just off the top of my head, no.

Sydnie J Davis 20:35  
I'm asking you to dig a little deep, but we'll get you that I will get you up. I mean, only remember what I did yesterday. So it's

Alexandria Houston  20:45  
Thats a good seventeen years ago. 

Sydnie J Davis 20:49  
Is there anything that you would just want me to know? Something that you would want someone to know about this program? 

Alexandria Houston  20:58  

Sydnie J Davis 20:59  
Or just like the effect it had on you?

Alexandria Houston  21:00  
I don't you? Yeah, honestly, I feel like it was, um, honestly, I don't know how I found out about it. But you know, I will say the universe and your gifts will make room for you. Because I don't know how I found. I don't know, I really don't know if I saw something like an ad. Or I don't I really don't know how the game apart. It's so unique for you. But like I said, that time timeframe younger me was literally I just want to write, I'm writing, I'm writing. I'm writing I'm critiquing, critiquing. I'm in the I'm in the library. I'm looking up encyclopedias. So how ever it came, I feel it may have been a summer campers, I don't know, I really don't know. That's the thing. I just wish I knew how it was marketed then. Because I really can't remember. But however it was, we still had a great amount for the timeframe and the marketing. And so I would say it was a great place to just write and I think so it was some times where you could submit something anonymously. And of course, now we we live in a lot of anonymous writing. So I definitely Indian to when you start pulling back layers of life, we want to get into like women writers and black writers and a voice and a platform, it really was a great way to introduce young riders to potentially continue to stretch. Stretch the stereotypes. Because our I do remember reading something like you know, like, JK Rowling, she only use her initials, because that way you can't tell if she's masculine or feminine. So just those little things even go into the writing is just I don't know, but I'm still passionate about writing I write in a journal every day. I write notes all the time to myself. And I try to be very conscious of like when I'm writing in the social platform of things. Um, yeah, so I feel like I really feel like it's a skill that is losing value because people you know, people don't really write they just shorthand and try to get the words out but I barely can make a sentence but

Sydnie J Davis  23:51  
I don't think too many people remember shorthand. I'm I'm fine. I can do it every now and again. I was like you I'm starting to lose my 

Alexandria Houston  24:00  
Oh, now I can't say your random a random fun fact about Teen Appeal I do. I don't know what the article was. I don't know if it got submitted. But I do remember one time actually typing on a typewriter to write something for to to appear. And you know, I'm sorry, write it once is it type visit or you try to go back and do it little whatever, but

Sydnie J Davis 24:27  
I still have one and one of my students asked me where I plugged it in and I said okay. Alright.

Alexandria Houston  24:35  
Oh, yeah, I don't because I think the computer was acting up or something. And my grandma was like, well uses type writer. And I mean, 'cause it was not too ancient, but it still was like we got a computer. And I typed something I do remember typing something on that typewriter for Teen Appeal and I don't know what came with it, but I do remember that because I was like, Oh, I gotta get this. And so that was a random historic fact.

Sydnie J Davis 25:13  
If you if you can find it we would love to have. We would love to have anything to show like, wow typewriter. Well, thank you so much. Don't Don't hang up but thank you so much. Appreciate you. Allowing us to interview you today. If we have any other questions or anything, I will make sure I email that to you and if you can get us any of those things we would absolutely that.

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