Former dean hosts radio show

VERBALIZE — In the WPPA radio station, Mr. John Powers, former dean, speaks his opinion on the call-in radio talk show “Step Up to the Mic.” He has been on the show for almost two years as a co-host/commentator. “We hope that when the callers call in, they will take us in a certain direction, and we’ll talk about that,” Mr. Powers said. “Otherwise, we have to throw the topics out there.”

Adalie Zanis

VERBALIZE — In the WPPA radio station, Mr. John Powers, former dean, speaks his opinion on the call-in radio talk show “Step Up to the Mic.” He has been on the show for almost two years as a co-host/commentator. “We hope that when the callers call in, they will take us in a certain direction, and we’ll talk about that,” Mr. Powers said. “Otherwise, we have to throw the topics out there.”

By Adalie Zanis, Pottsville Area High School, Pottsville, Pa.

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For 13 years before his retirement in 2012, students were called to see Mr. John Powers, the dean.

Now, they can call him.

“I don’t think I intimidate people like I did in my office,” Mr. Powers said.

Mr. Powers, or JP, as he is known at WPPA radio station in downtown Pottsville, is one of three hosts of the weekday radio show, “Step Up to the Mic.”

“Step Up to the Mic,” an Associated Press award-winning show, started six years ago with the intention of broadcasting public service in the area by inviting representatives to come in and speak about their organizations. When this did not generate enough interest, it evolved into an open forum where anyone can call and comment on current news and a variety of other topics. Featured on the show with Mr. Powers are Mr. Jeff “JZ” Zubowicz and Ms. Deb Dougherty.

“We are kind of co-hosts, we are commentators, we are not experts,” Mr. Powers said. “What we try to do is generate a conversation with people calling in.”

What we try to do is generate a conversation with people calling in.”

— John Powers, dean-turned-radio host

Mr. Powers has been on the show for almost two years, but his relationship with the radio station is 30 years in the making. He was the girls’ basketball coach in the early ’80s, and when one of the broadcasters for the station became ill, he was asked to fill in to cover boys’ basketball games. Eventually, he became the permanent “voice of the Tide,” a position he still holds today in addition to his role on “ Step Up to the Mic.”

“Sometimes people call, and they’re really fired up about something,” Mr. Powers said. “I’m very often a tail twister, and somebody will call and say, ‘You really got me going today, JP,’ and I say, ‘So you wanted to call and congratulate me on doing my job?’”

Mr. Powers described himself as more “middle of the road” than his conservative co-hosts, which he said often leads to him playing devil’s advocate in a discussion.

“When I was dean, I had kids throw chairs at me [and] call me every name in the book,” Mr. Powers said. “My job was to change their behavior, and I had to find a way to do that. I don’t want to change everybody’s mind here. That’s not my role. It’s to give the other side of it.”

I don’t want to change everybody’s mind here. That’s not my role. It’s to give the other side of it.”

— John Powers

Although he stirs up conversation on hot topics, Mr. Powers said the show keeps discussion civil, and heated debate doesn’t affect his relationship with his co-hosts.

“We’ve had our head-to-heads. It does not carry one second once we’re off the air,” Mr. Powers said. “It’s very comfortable. I think we’re all of the same ilk realizing it’s a show; it’s an on-air persona.”

According to Mr. Powers, being on air requires one to have confidence and control of his voice, and he must learn to eliminate bad speaking habits and not to interrupt others. Mr. Powers acquired the nickname “JP” and some of his other broadcasting trademarks during his 41 years at the high school.

“To be successful, especially in my job as dean, I had to find a way, even though [students] knew I was going to punish them at some point, to make a connection. I try to do that with a lot of the callers. I try to do it with a little bit of a sense of humor, and very often – even people that are angry – it brings them down a notch or two,” Mr. Powers said. “The best part of me is I don’t have a fragile ego. If somebody calls and is mad at what I said or wants to argue, that’s okay. I kind of make a joke out of it. This is an anonymous caller. I’m not going to lose sleep over it, but I don’t have a fragile ego, and I think that’s what helped me in teaching and being a dean.”

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