ITHACA, N.Y. — In the latest edition of “Youth Voices,” a radio series that brings young local residents together to discuss issues they are passionate about, several students talk about the stigmas attached to participating in sports or the performing arts in school and how to break through.

The series is produced and hosted on WRFI by J.T. Stone, a student at Ithaca High School and intern for The Ithaca Voice. Learn more about the series here.

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, nearly eight million students engage in high school sports including football, track and field, soccer, ice hockey, swimming, wrestling and golf. While many high school students enjoy participating in sports, there are still some reported stigmas around athletics culture, including having to start out perfectly fit and not being able to be open about mental health issues

The performing arts, which includes acting, singing, dancing and playing a musical instrument, also has its stigmas. For example, some students believe you need to start out with musical or theatrical talent to find success on stage, while others perceive “theater nerds” as overly sensitive and emotional.

While many high school students do enjoy athletics and the performing arts, there are still those who refuse to give either a chance. 

In the third episode of “Youth Voices,” Stone sat down with student stage actors, Leah Slattery and Jacob Ellis, and student sport team captains, Liam Just and Kalena Yearwood, to discuss their experiences with these stigmas. They broke down popular stigmas surrounding high school sports and performing arts to inspire more students to try both.   

The original idea behind “Youth Voices” was to serve as an outlet for local youth to find common ground on polarizing political issues, but Stone has since decided to open the show to any topics local youth are passionate about. With this change, he said his goal is to encourage as many local students as possible to share their voices, ideas and experiences with the Ithaca community. 

Listen to the full conversation about sports and performing arts stigmas below, which originally aired on WRFI on Sept. 25. Stay tuned for future episodes of “Youth Voices” that tackle other topics including feminism, mental health and climate change solutions.  

Featured image: From left to right, Jacob Ellis, Leah Slattery, J.T. Stone, Liam Just, and Kalena Yearwood at WRFI. (Photo by Peter Bakija)

J.T. Stone

J.T. Stone is a contributor for The Ithaca Voice and a 2020 graduate of Ithaca High School. Questions? Story tips? Email him at