A decade ago, “Serial” spawned a cottage industry of provocative podcasts with some 300 million downloads. Today, it’s a competitive world with “The Joe Rogan Experience,” “This American Life” and nearly 4 million more podcasts uploading regularly on Spotify. 

But a pair of Maricopa high schoolers look to replicate that success with their podcast, The Controversy, hopping on the microphone weekly to discuss all things education.  

Nicolas Yendrzeski speaks while sitting in front of two computer monitors on Aug. 7, 2023. Yendrzeski is one of three hosts of “The Controversy,” a podcast about high school student experiences. [Monica D. Spencer]
Maricopa High School senior Nicolas Yendrzeski and Heritage Academy senior Zachery Velchek co-host candid discussions with guest speakers and fellow students. 

From standardized testing and student council to prom and Sadie Hawkins, the co-hosts tackle a broad spectrum of subjects that have a daily impact on the lives of high school students in Maricopa.  

“We wanted to create a platform and a safe space for students to share their opinions and views,” Yendrzeski. 

“The Controversy” sprouted from a desire to do something unique. Yendrzeski initially wanted to discuss broader, national topics; but soon saw the need for a student-led platform. 

“Anytime I have a crazy idea, Zach hops on board,” Yendrzeski said about his friend of seven years.  

The pilot episode “Election or Popularity Contest?” launched last August. The duo has created 43 episodes since then. 

Aside from an occasional technical issue, a new episode of “The Controversy” drops every Monday. Yendrzeski and Velchek recently kicked off their fourth season in line with the start of a new school year. 

Yendrzeski said “The Controversy” has grabbed the attention of Maricopa Unified School District administrators and opened a line of communication between students and the school system. 

“It’s been a learning experience,” Yendrzeski said. “We have come a long way streamlining the process.” 

The podcast is available on all major streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts.