Andre Pak, a sophomore in the Westphal College of Media Arts and Design’s music industry program, co-created the mental health-focused podcast “The New Normal” during pandemic lockdown last year.
The Creative Resilient Youth Collective came up with the idea for the podcast from their “check-ins” during weekly Zoom meetings.
Pak joined CRY as a senior at Central High School, crediting Michelle Delgado, one of the co-founders of the collective, as his mentor.
CRY is in their third year now; Pak was a member of the first cohort of students.
“It was originally supposed to be eight weeks, but because we were so passionate about it, it turned out to last a whole year,” Pak said.
In search of a quarantine project in late April of 2020, the group decided that because they were already having conversations about mental health, they should begin a podcast about it.
“Before I joined CRY, I never really talked about mental health ever. It was not something that my family talked about or my social groups in high school,” Pak said.
The 20-year-old musician works with eight other co-hosts on “The New Normal,” which has four episodes out and over 100 listeners.
The first episode centered around drug use in quarantine, a recurring topic from the group’s check-ins.
“I’m really grateful that I had a program like CRY where I was able to learn the language of mental health and kind of pay it forward, especially being Asian-American … I really want to be a mental health advocate for the Asian community,” Pak said, noting that the topic can be taboo within his community.
When the group could gather in person, they would discuss their feelings that day and the mentality they were bringing into whatever event was happening.
“Sometimes we have good days and sometimes we have bad days. I think that is a testament to how teens experience life every day,” Pak said.
Vulnerability has always been a part of the group’s gatherings, and it has translated to Zoom, where the podcast is recorded.
Podcasting is just one of the artistic mediums Pak is involved with.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was 10,” Pak said.
Within the collective, Pak has also explored photography and videography, and he uses his audio knowledge from his education at Drexel to produce music.
When Pak was 14, he started a YouTube podcast of his own on the topic of pop culture.
The idea for “The New Normal” podcast was a compromise between members of the cohort, who wanted to launch either a radio show or an open discussion project.
“I’m a creative thinker and I tried to fuse everything together,” Pak said.
“The New Normal” was borne out of a desire to dive deeper into a topic the collective felt passionately about, and in four weeks, it was ready to launch.
Although the cohort has been working together throughout the year on several projects, they have not had an in -person event.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, CRY typically hosts an art exhibit, but it was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will be a reunion for the artists, Pak said, on Friday, June 4 at Cherry Street Pier, where the annual CRY art exhibit will take place in partnership with the Young Artists Program. The exhibit will run until June 27.
“The New Normal” is available on Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube. For more information, visit https://crycollective.com/.