Varoon Kodithala and Damian Galvan can’t vote yet, but they are already doing what they can to make their political voice and the voices of others heard.
Earlier this year, the pair of rising juniors at Alliance Academy for Innovation kicked off their new podcast “Polititeen with Varoon and Damian,” where the two have conversations with elected officials, professors and others in the political world.
“We just wanted to make teens I guess more involved in politics,” Kodithala said, “because we see our friends are disengaged, they don’t know about today’s political issues and don’t have enough information, enough perspective about those issues."
The podcast, which releases new episodes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, has already attracted political guests from Georgia and other parts of the country, including Democratic candidate for Georgia’s 24th state House district Natalie Bucsko, Fulton County Commission candidate Ted Terry and Jennifer Kavanaugh with the Rand Corporation.
“We stay until 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock on one of these days and just send out a bunch of emails, DMs, calls, try to get in touch with anyone that we can, and that’s the beautiful thing, we just organically get our guests based on what we’re interested in,” Kodithala said.
Both Kodithala and Galvan said their ages not only meant they do they have a different worldview than their guests or other, older podcast hosts, but their views were more fluid, making them more accepting of potential opposite opinions.
“A lot of adults right now are not really receptive to other’s opinions, they have their own set-in-stone opinions,” Kodithala said, “but the fact of the matter is me and Damian have a very flexible agenda, our political agendas are very, very, very flexible, so when someone comes on the podcast and brings up a good point, we’re not going to just cancel them, just say, ‘you’re wrong, I’m right.’ We’re going to be like, ‘I think this is a valid point’ or ‘I don’t think it’s a bad point and here’s why.’”
Along with Kodithala and Galvan, the Polititeen team is made up of fellow Alliance students Julia Hartman, who is the lead research intern, and Jaida Pilling, who creates unique artwork for each podcast.
“I think that the podcast has been received really, really well, and I say that because a lot of my friends, my peers and my teachers have come up to me and said, ‘Varoon, you and Damian are doing an amazing job,’” Kodithala said. “It’s been a really, really good response from the community because they believe in what we’re doing, because a lot of these podcasts and news networks, they don’t focus on kids, they focus on adults and older people, helping them kind of gauge politics, and don’t focus on education.
“Our podcast is mainly about bringing in different perspectives and different people who can tell the youth about what politics really is.”
Though Kodithala and Galvan had previously talked about starting a political podcast before, they said the death of George Floyd and ensuing protests were what motivated them to make the idea a reality.
Another factor in starting when they did was the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant they were at home with more time than usual to start up the podcast.
The two said they might otherwise have never started the podcast, but there were some issues with conducting virtual interviews.
“We’re growing, but it makes it a little bit more difficult because you can’t necessarily have that person-to-person foundation and that connection that we’re hoping to have in the future, being in the room with each other and we can interject more easily without the delay of a phone call,” Galvan said. “Obviously, that will lead to more natural conversations.”
Once school starts back in the fall and things get a little closer to normal, Kodithala and Galvan said it will likely take some extra effort to juggle school and the podcast but said the podcast is something they plan to continue doing as long as possible. They’re even planning on branching out to videos and a blog.
“The way that we describe it to our guests when they come on is, we’re having a conversation and we just happen to record and upload it,” Galvan said. “I don’t think that humans ever stop having conversations, and I don’t think that we’re ever going to stop recording ours. Wherever it goes, that’s where it will take us. We can have our plans for it, but ultimately we’re in a position… where we’re blessed in that we can take this where we want and as far as we want it to if we really put ourselves to it and dedicate ourselves.”