DAVID REENE, HOST:
Now, Hank Rugg of Youth Radio remembers finding empowerment through his father, like when his dad taught him to ride a bike.
HANK RUGG, BYLINE: Don't lean too much in either direction, he told me. Be careful with bumps and biking over curbs. It was quintessential dad, both critical and caring. That day, he said that if I stayed positive, believing that I wouldn't fall, that I could find my balance. Growing up, my dad was the gatekeeper to my confidence and motivation. And then without warning, he had a heart attack and a stroke when I was 16. Suddenly, my dad couldn't even speak a full sentence. He became vulnerable. And he didn't want me to see him like that, didn't want me to recognize his new imperfections. The tables turned. It was me taking care of him. When we'd watch movies I'd sometimes have to explain things. But sitting in his electric wheelchair, the youngest person in his nursing home, my dad still tries to be the one guiding me. With choppy words and lots of body language, he struggles to ask me about school and about how my social life is going. Except now, I cringe talking about my challenges because my dad isn't able to help me anymore. So his probing just feels like criticism. I think the only advice I can offer my dad to ease the tension we're feeling is the same advice he give me back when he taught me to ride the bike, to stay positive and believe that I won't fall because that's the only way he and I are going to find our balance again.
GREENE: That was Hank Rugg. He's part of the team here at Youth Radio. So is Salim Boykin, who tells us how he found his voice on stage.
SALIM BOYKIN, BYLINE: At a recent show, I sang, "Stop The World" by Maxwell. I heard this girl in the front row, the loudest girl in there. Every time I hit a run, a series of notes going up and down, she yelled, oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh, girl, he doesn't even know. It wasn't always like this for me. Just a few years ago, I'd sing as loud as I wanted in the shower as long as no one was watching. But I was terrified to take the spotlight. The truth is, I was scared to even talk to people, completely scared of girls, just living in this intensely awkward shell. I slowly worked up my nerve by attending open-mics. I started with performing poetry, then rap, then one day, a full on love song.
(Singing) This ain't for the war. This is only, for lovers only.
I was trembling throughout the song. And at the end, I stared at the audience for maybe two seconds of silence. Then they broke into applause. Part of my newfound confidence comes from finally having the courage to do what I love and what I've been afraid to do for so long. And part of it comes from owning my own vulnerability. I've discovered that the energy and the confidence that I get from performing, it carries over into other parts of my life. It's bigger than singing.
GREENE: Salim Boykin performs with Remix Your Life. That's the arts program here at Youth Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.