As a high school co-op student, Elijah Miller created a winning podcast on the climate crisis with help from the Hart House Programming team. Today, the University of Toronto student at Woodsworth College says the experiential learning opportunity at the House was transformational.
Hart House encourages students to explore who they are and who they aspire to be through the arts, dialogue and wellness. It deepens student engagement with local and global issues. Podcasting whizz, climate change sleuth and burgeoning storyteller Elijah (Lilo) Miller is proof of this.
Last year, the high school student brainstormed with friends at Runnymede Collegiate on what issues to pursue in a co-op placement. The topic of climate change came to the fore almost immediately. Ideas around a podcast on this subject quickly evolved.
"Climate change is something I am passionate about,” Elijah explains. “When I was talking with my friends at high school, whenever the idea of climate change came up, I wanted to ask questions like What is it? and How did we get here?”
Elijah’s pressing questions were addressed as his idea came to fruition via his co-op placement. Here, he worked closely with the Hart House Podcasting team through Support, Engage, Experience (SEE) U of T, a collaborative access program initiated by U of T and the Toronto District School Board. The aim of the program is to encourage students who come from communities historically underrepresented at U of T and post-secondary institutions to view post-secondary education as a viable destination. A feature of the program is participating in classes, experiential learning and campus life at U of T.
The intrepid student had never done a podcast before but was eager to learn. To do this, he worked closely with the Hart House Programming team – specifically, Day Milman, Manager, Integrated Arts Education; and Danielle Dinunzio, Manager, Community Access & Outreach – as part of a series. “Day and Danielle taught me how to come up with the questions, how to edit, how to record,” Elijah recounts.
Most of this co-op work was online. But that didn’t get in the way of creativity and reciprocity. He explains, “We would do zoom calls, where I’d say here’s what I’m doing and they’d say you should think about this or that. It was cool.”
The pinnacle of Elijah’s experience was coming to U of T, into Hart House for the first time. “In the last week of my co-op, I went into the House, into the recording studio to create the podcast,” he recalls.
The Podcast: The ocean’s rising, do you give a sh*t?
In the podcast, Elijah interviews fellow students, teachers and a therapist to hear their perspectives on the climate crisis, why it's hard to instigate change and who is responsible. The podcast presses interviewees, audience members and its own creator to think critically about this complex topic and ask difficult questions.
Elijah wore many hats when creating this podcast titled “The ocean’s rising, do you give a sh*t?” In fact, he wrote, produced, edited and hosted the podcast. He even created the music, under the Lilo nickname/pseudonym – see his Instagram account @devilish_wonderkid.
The experience for Elijah was hugely meaningful. “The work that I did with Hart House really ignited a social justice fire in me. Working on the podcast, I began to question all of the ideas around climate change, to interrogate and to think about it more deeply.”
The podcast was released March 31, 2021. Feedback was outstanding. “Everyone I’ve talked to said they loved it, and thought it was amazing,” Elijah says.
Advice for students: “Go for it … This is something that Hart House really illuminated for me.”
Today, Elijah pops into Hart House on occasion to say hello. It has been a terrifically busy first year for him. The Woodsworth student has not yet chosen a major but is leaning toward psychology.
He has some sage advice for U of T students thinking about engaging with Hart House:
“Go for it because you can handle more than you think you can. This is something that Hart House really illuminated for me. Just think of it as a chance for you to explore something that really intrigues you.”