Written by Teen Leaders: Hannah Li, Amy Zhou, Eric Mao, and Anisha Parsan
In the midst of march, our café was still scrambling.
As we made last minute calls to our local venue, hoping to hold our café right after the end of Spring Break, and finished up the last strands of communication with our guest speaker, news of COVID-19, which had not yet been classified as a pandemic, began creeping its way into our plans. Suddenly, our schools, museums, companies, and just about every other public space we knew, were closed.
Teen Leaders Setting up for their Cafe program.
After a period of stagnation, our tiny café was fortunate enough to find the shining positives in our new everyday lives. Rather than being discouraged by the lack of in person activities characteristic to our café, we noticed a few positives!
- We could now invite speakers from all across the nation, and even across the world! Rather than being confined to the limitations of easy transportation within Greater Houston, we extended our reaches to major institutions like the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the graduate school at MI, and even previous board members of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)!
- We could also reach a greater audience. Our meeting links were able to extend throughout the nation, inviting participants of all ethnicity’s, ages, and backgrounds without the limitation of physical distance! After our meetings, our recordings were then uploaded on our website and even shared with listeners in China!
- And finally, our virtual cafés reinforced our appreciation for our platform and speakers even more so! The power of passionate students, dedicated and philanthropic speakers and researchers, and our dedicated café team were able to overcome the pandemic of the century, confirming to ourselves and our audiences that everything is possible. In the face of a pandemic, Inside the Café and our students aim to learn more about it. Instead of being complacent, our virtual cafés showed us that the next generation of students would rather understand the implications of COVID-19 and even defeat it!
However, along the way, things weren’t always smooth sailing. As common among many similar café organizers, the need to adapt and improvise is crucial. From finding our speakers and trying to keep up correspondence in the middle of their busy (coronavirus-impacted) schedules, to understanding the functions of ZOOM while tweaking modifications so that our audience was comfortable and could easily ask questions, and most importantly maintaining the spirit of the café through engaging presentations and facilitating even more personal environment between audience and speaker, there were many things we had to account for.
As our “COVID-19 Cafés” series drew to an end, we had gained invaluable experience, and an even better understanding of what it means to share STEM with students. To briefly summarize, the following are a few key points that we held close to heart throughout the hectic process.
- Remaining positive! No matter the different people we spoke to or the difficulties we encountered in our busy 3 weeks of back-to-back café schedule, we always remained optimistic and confident!
- Delegating work and strands of communication! By delegating different strands of communication between our 3 café organizers, we were able to cover lots of ground when it came to speaking with potential café guest presenters. In the meantime, delegating these tasks allowed for us to be ahead of the game, preparing for future cafés while the current one had not even taken place.
- Enthusiastic advertising! We called up many of our friends, school teachers, and even parents to share the news. At the time, our school had shakily transitioned into virtual school, and presenting our cafés to our teachers proved to be a great idea, supplementing school material with engaging outside speakers we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
- Finding the balance between professional and relaxed in our café environment with our speakers! We emphasized to our speakers to use lay terms for our audience to understand, to not be afraid of being relaxed or to make jokes, but also to not hesitate to treat our students like fellow scientists in research!
- Recording our Cafés! We recorded each session in case participants could not participate, uploaded them to our website, so that they could be viewed at all times and in any location!
As the summer extends on, quarantine does as well. Inside the Café encourages similar science cafés across the nation to not hesitate to step into the virtual world.
Endless possibilities await…
Written by Teen Leaders— Hannah Li, Amy Zhou,Eric Mao, Anisha Parsan