StoryCorps’ One Small Step (OSS) brings strangers with different political beliefs together for a conversationnot to debate politicsbut to get to know each other as people. This year, the work of OSS is focused nationwide in four Anchor Communities, as well as five Radio Station Hub locations. Critically, the Radio Station Hubs Program, a year-long partnership with public radio stations who offer their own OSS program, drives local community participation and awareness. 

In this first installment of our Hubs blog series, we talked to OSS Radio Relations Manager Melissa Velasquez, a first-generation American of Colombian descent and a lifelong resident of West New York, New Jersey, who oversees the Hubs Program for OSS. Melissa’s upbringing taught her to be resourceful to overcome challenges and  instilled in her a sense of being a global citizen. When she’s not traveling, Melissa likes to explore the New York Tri-state area, whip up new cocktails, and teach yoga in Spanish.

Melissa with staff from Hubs stations KHOL and WERU. 

What is the OSS Radio Station Hubs Program and what is your role?

The idea behind the Hubs Program is that we collaborate with a select cohort of communities and their public radio stations nationwide and deputize them to be part of our local OSS “ground force.” They are critical in helping raise awareness of OSS in their regions and connecting us to community members. In my role managing the partnership between OSS and each of these stations, I serve as a resource and my duties include training staff members in each community to facilitate OSS conversations and maximize the overall impact of the program in their region. 

How do the Hubs communities fit into the larger mission of OSS?

The Hubs Program has always informed the larger OSS initiative—it’s a way to test things out in smaller markets and apply these key learnings as we go. We let the stations show us the potential for OSS by trusting them and sharing our resources. The Hubs Program is an integral part of our work with OSS to help see the humanity in each other—one conversation at a time.

How are Hubs communities selected? 

We look at a number of indicators including diversity within the cohort of stations we choose (e.g., rural vs. urban), a desire by the station to impact their community, a strong outreach track record, and locations where we haven’t yet been. 

How long is the program?

Anywhere from eight-twelve months—usually from March to December each year. 

What is expected of a Hubs station?

The deliverables for each station include forging three to five local partnerships to help spread the word, matching conversation partners and recording 25 conversations, and an expectation that they share the interviews (with at least three in broadcast form). For each station, the effort culminates in a Listening event—either virtually or in person—or what I like to refer to as the “cherry-on-top moment,” where stations get to reflect on the hard work they put into OSS. 

What’s your favorite part of working with the Hubs stations?

My favorite part is that no two stations are alike—they all have their own visions. It’s so inspiring to me to see how this effort to bring us together takes root in each community. I’m proud to shepherd these stations along, see them evolve, and learn and spread their wings. It’s a privilege to bear witness to this process.