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This North Texas teen went from dreaming about podcasting to co-hosting a national show

18-year-old James Kim talks and gestures with his hands while speaking into a microphone in a radio studio
Bill Zeeble
Prosper High School senior James Kim, seen here talking in a KERA studio, is the new cohost of the PBS NewsHour mental health podcast On Our Minds. The fourth season premieres Jan. 10, 2024.

Launching its 4th season this week, On Our Minds is a national teen podcast for and by teens, from PBS NewsHour’s student reporting labs. The show mixes celebrity interviews with tough-minded takes on teen mental health issues and has won an Edward R. Murrow award in the process.

It seeks out new co-hosts every season and this year, A North Texas teen won a slot.

Prosper High School senior James Kim said he was interested in reporting and podcasting because he liked these public outlets as a means to express himself.

But he’d never tried either.

Then a high school friend turned him onto the podcast On Our Minds.

Now in its 4th season, the show tackles serious mental health topics like gender identity, depression, or how to handle stress.

To lighten things a bit, On Our Minds occasionally turns to celebrities for their takes on issues. Kim found a past episode featuring NBA superstar LeBron James answering student questions about how he handles stress.

“That was really fun for me,” said Kim. “I thought that was a cool opportunity to give to students.”

Shortly after discovering the podcast, he was scrolling through Instagram “like any teenager does,” Kim said, and learned the show was seeking new co-hosts for the upcoming season.

“Even though I think I didn’t know what my odds were, I was like, I have to go for it," Kim said. "I really wasn’t expecting too much...but I was like, I have to go for it.”

He got it.

He’s looking forward to interviewing famous folks and meeting student reporter-contributors, whose stories will be included in the twice-monthly podcast. Each episode is about about 20 minutes.

Kim said he’s not intimidated by the show’s serious focus on teen mental health. He’ll take tips and inspiration from stand-up comedians he admires on how to lighten weighty topics.

“I think about Dave Chappelle’s ‘Killing Them Softly' or Maria Bamford and her fearless battles with mental health struggles,” Kim said. “They were impactful for me. I even tried doing standup comedy at local clubs.

"I really learned that balance between keeping things fun, engaging, while also addressing really serious issues.”

Kim is now 18, a first-generation U.S. citizen born to parents who emigrated from South Korea to attend college. He’s looking forward to meeting other teens like him, whose parents helped pave the way for their children to grow and succeed in United States.

"At times I think that our definitions of success might not necessarily match up," he said of his parents, "but I can see that they've made this extra effort to kind of see my point of view of what success might look like and they've really shown that. They've always inspired me to do something fearless, something I'm passionate about, like this podcast."

Next, it's off to college. Kim has dual citizenship and plans to serve in the military in college through ROTC then maybe volunteer after graduation. He didn’t say where he applied, but he wants to pursue economics.

Hosting a national podcast might go on his resume.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.