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Penn State Freshman Wins NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge

Freshman theatre major Miriam Colvin has been named one of two winners of NPR’s 2021 Student Podcast Challenge: College Edition.

Colvin submitted a podcast entry about a little-known Indiana man, Carl Huber, recounting when he and his group of friends found a unique way to cure boredom that eventually led one of them to compete against esteemed boxer Muhammad Ali.

“Their friend group of farm boys out in the country start creating boxing matches in their barns whenever they get bored,” Colvin said. “They found one guy who was really good and decided to go up into the city and compete in ‘Tomorrow’s Champions,’ which was a boxing TV show in the 50s. The guy they put into the competition ends up boxing a young Muhammad Ali, or Cassius Clay at the time, when he was 14 years old. He then gets the crap beat out of him by Muhammad Ali.”

The podcast mainly showcases Huber’s storytelling but also includes some perspective from her grandfather, Larry Paris. Colvin said she heard the story countless times growing up but never really understood the fine details of it.

However, Colvin fully understood the story as she grew older. Storytelling is a prominent activity in her family and this is a story that both the Huber family and her family cherish.

“Storytelling is also a huge part of my family, and there has been so many times where we’ve been gathered around, listening to my grandfather tell some crazy stories from his childhood,” Colvin said. “This story, in particular, was really important to me because I could share it with so many people.”

Colvin initially discovered the contest through her mother, who is a big fan of NPR and thought that her daughter should look into the podcast challenge. Once the contest was expanded to include college students, it was practically a no-brainer.

“I made a podcast last semester for an English class and it turned out really well, in my opinion. So, [my mom] heard about the contest and wanted me to give it another try,” Colvin said.

In the beginning, Colvin thought about producing a story relatable to everyone. Her first idea was dating during a pandemic, but she realized that COVID-19 was already at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Once Colvin had her idea down, the creative process took a few weeks. She started by organizing the recordings and then actually recording them.

“I interviewed Larry first and then Carl after. There was a few minor details that were different and they bickered about it,” Colvin said. “It was just really interesting to hear all that. Carl also gave me a lot of really funny details that I hadn’t heard before, so that was really fun.”

Later, Colvin edited the footage, which was quick and fairly easy to do. Soon after she submitted her entry, Colvin was announced as one of 10 finalists. She felt like it was an honor to even be on the NPR website. Before she knew it, she was contacted and told that she was one out of two contest winners.

“I got a call, and I thought that maybe the link [to the podcast] wasn’t working. But they said that I won, and I was super excited,” Colvin said. “They discussed with me if I wanted to do an in-person interview, and I said yes and told them I will be on-campus until May. Then, they were just like, ‘OK, we’ll be there Thursday.’ It was crazy…They were just able to fly out so soon, and that part was so cool.”

Colvin said she was especially grateful to see her produced work get shared by so many people. It also shed light on a personal story few knew in detail.

“It makes me think about how many stories could have gone to the public that we don’t know about,” Colvin said. “Everybody knows about Muhammad Ali, but not all of the people he beat up and their perspective along the way. I’m just excited to share that perspective with everyone, too.”

Colvin’s family and the Hubers weren’t even sure if the man who actually fought Muhammad Ali, Krummy Lynch, was still alive. Through the podcast, they found out that he was.

“I guess his family showed it to him and it’s crazy how we found that out,” Colvin said. “I heard that he doesn’t even like to tell this story because he lost and might be a little bummed about that and didn’t see it as a story to brag about.”

Colvin also said it’s heartwarming that that the story is now being heard by so many people and that the Hubers now have a piece of their family history preserved.

“Everybody was just really excited that I could organize this story into something that people could hear instead of keeping it in our small circle,” Colvin said. “Now, it is something that can be sent around, and it allows for a bigger network of people to hear it.”

Colvin is also proud of her work and her win because of the positive impact it’s had on her grandfather.

“Even though my grandpa has lived this crazy life with all of these cool stories, it still feels nice to have done something that surprises him and excites him,” Colvin said.

Other than being published on NPR’s website and being featured on “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” Colvin will receive new audio equipment from NPR. She eventually plans on putting this equipment to good use.

“I feel like I should continue this because I really enjoy it. I think I am going to start a podcast, but I don’t know exactly what it will be or if I will interview people or what type of stories it will be. I’m just figuring that out,” Colvin said. “Writing is a huge passion for me, but I’ve never really gotten into the world of journalism. I obviously want to keep writing and tell more stories in whatever medium that is.”

To listen to Colvin’s podcast, click here.

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About the Author

Nicole Oronzio

Nicole is a freshmen majoring in journalism who is from Aston, PA. She loves hiking, watching movies, and trying new things. She has an obsession with meditating and her dog, Simba (aka. the love of her life). Just a fair warning: She might ramble on about the Universe if given the chance. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @nicoleoronzio or email her at [email protected]

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