Meghan McFail

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  • Meghan McFail
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    I’ll speak to this from my experience in Taos, NM, halfway through our second season.

    As Michelle can attest to, I almost always refer back to the benefit of using a council structure for our teen leadership group to create accountability, not just to me but more importantly to each other. Very rarely do I DIRECTLY request the teens to follow-up or delve into new tasks between cafes. Instead I send my requests to our secretary who both emails her team members and posts on our FB group for discussion.

    Every month, with the exception of January this year, I suggest one opportunity to take on more responsibility between cafes. If they go for it, which they almost always do, I set them up appropriately. For example, contacting the local radio station to allow them a live interview, finding sponsors so they can participate in a fundraiser, scheduling presentations to local civic groups such as the Rotary Club, etc. Not all leaders have an interest in outside activities which is fine, though I have found that most become more involved when their peers are asking them for further involvement.

    I learned quickly that the best way to ensure they don’t follow through is to nag. Throw them into the fire with some suggestions of how to navigate themselves and you’ll be surprised what they’ll come up with, at least that’s been my experience thus far. I keep myself in check by reminding myself that I’m simply an advisor, not their leader. I never run a meeting — that’s the president’s job (or vp’s if president cannot attend), and the kids are required to consider and approve/disapprove all decisions. I don’t always agree but it’s not my program, it’s theirs.

    in reply to: Lull in excitement before the Café "starts" #3476
    Meghan McFail
    Moderator

    Creating a lively, interactive atmosphere prior to cafes has been a learning curve in Taos, NM. I can offer some suggestions that teen leaders and I have used to improve on the pre-cafe experience. First, playing music prior to the cafe is helpful. I have one of my teen leaders who is particularly familiar with music create an appropriate playlist. We connect it to the main speakers and turn the volume up loud enough to create a “club” beat but quiet enough to allow for verbal exchange. This season we’ve implemented a photo booth. We’ve gathered silly props, several related to science, and set aside a corner of the room for it. Our media committee takes on the responsibility of taking photos and sharing on FB. It adds levity to the overall experience. Third, and this may sound odd.. one of our speakers this year requested incense to add to his lecture of ecological expeditions in Mongolia. Feedback from attendees was positive and not sought out. I assume many cafes are held in rather stiff atmospheres such as college classrooms and libraries. The teen leaders and I are trying new avenues to alter the atmosphere so it is more relaxed and doesn’t remind students of a typical educational setting. From PR and sales experience I’ve found that stimulating the senses is key. Where possible and appropriate set a party ambiance. Stimulate their senses — visual, auditory, and olfactory. Add color wherever possible — signage, tablecloths, even consider the how the mixture and color of food adds to the look of the table. Pump up the volume, put your most outgoing and social teen(s) at the sign in table and stand back. My teen leaders don’t want their peers to have a lame experience. They know what’s cool — I don’t. If their classmates are coming and their reputation is at stake they’ll go the extra mile. Give them access to the program’s funding, let them make decisions to improve the experience and allow for them to learn from their failures.

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