By Matt Larson
Something that many local residents may not know is that West County has its very own radio station. What may surprise you even further, is that it’s broadcast from antennae right out of El Cerrito High School’s football stadium at 88.1 FM, and another on San Pablo Ridge at 97.7 FM; FCC-licensed to the school itself.
On the air since 1978, WCCUSD Public Radio, aka keCg, aka worldOne radio, emits two low-power FM radio stations; 88.1 for those near El Cerrito, and 97.7 for listeners in northern West County. The students of El Cerrito High School play a major role with the station, and have even begun taking their efforts to KQED’s airwaves.
KQED Youth Takeover is an annual event where, for one week, KQED will broadcast student-produced content. A few examples of their breadth of topics include gender identity, ethnic representation, school start times and need for sleep regarding adolescent circadian rhythms. 10 Bay Area high schools participated in this year’s takeover, including two from West County: El Cerrito High School and Richmond High School.
While the radio station is on the grounds of El Cerrito High School, it remains open for other students in the area to get involved. “It is a community radio station,” said Station Manager and Program Director Corey Mason, who’s been associated with the station as either a volunteer, DJ, or teacher, for the past 23 years. “We include basic broadcast, podcast writing, feature writing; we focus on first-person perspectives, feature-enhanced perspectives, interview segments,” the list goes on.
It’s a rare opportunity for these students to have such access to an actual broadcast radio station. “Our particular high school is unique in that we do have our own pair of FM’s,” Mason said. “And a live studio and production room; our students have access to their own broadcast studio! Our morning announcements are also broadcast from there.”
They also do community outreach to bring special guests in to the station, who are working in a particular field the kids are interested in, to engage with the students about a potential career path they’re considering, Mason said, calling them reverse field trips. “It’s a world of ideas that they might not encounter outside of college.”
As far as what you’ll actually hear when you tune in to the radio station, in addition to the student-created content, you’ll also get an unparalleled variety of music. “We try to bring our kids forward into the world of music as soul food, cultural knowledge,” Mason explained. “We mix all musical genres liberally into one giant basket, and we call it worldOne.”
Tuning in to keCg you’re as likely to get reggae as you are to hear Native American music, classical jazz, Chinese opera, gamelan, Celtic, Serb-Croat, Russian liturgical, and much more. You may also tune into city council meetings or school board meetings, PSAs from nonprofit organizations, and many other functions you’d expect from a public radio station.
The 21st Annual keCg worldOne Festival is also coming up on July 3rd and 4th at Cerrito Vista Park. As Mason describes it, “It’s a very family friendly, beautiful, sunny, flapping-flag, sunflower, power day in the park.” It takes about 10 days to build, it’s volunteer-driven, and averages 12,000 attendees. This year look forward to the return of the Magical Nathaniel, Circus Imagination, and Hoopin’ Heather! As well as a worldly variety of musical performances.
As far as what happens next for keCg, they’ve just got to get the word out and keep mustering support. They’ve begun streaming their broadcast. Download the TuneIn app on your smartphone and search for “keCg” or “worldOneradio” to listen in. You can also head to kqed.org/news/el-cerrito-high-school to hear some of the stories broadcast from this year’s Youth Takeover event.
“This is a real privilege to be able to have and preserve a public radio entity this long,” Mason said. “It’s been 40 years … we do need direct listener support, which is even more of a challenge now that there’s so much free media. It’s a very robust, multicultural learning environment.” For more info, to donate, or even volunteer, head to worldoneradio.org or call (510) 233-0611.