Spotlight on Café Adult Leader Emily MacDonald

In a nutshell, describe your Teen Café program. What’s special or unique about it?

Teen Takeover at the Mayborn Museum Complex with Baylor University is a once-a-semester thematic three-hour program for teens 13-18. At each Teen Takeover event, participants meet multiple STEM speakers, have many opportunities to socialize with each other, tinker in the Design Den (the Museum’s makerspace), and freely explore the Museum’s pop-up activities. In addition, the program pulls STEM experts for cafés from the Museum and the university communities.


What’s your background? How did you become involved with your Teen Café program?

A graduate of Baylor’s Museum Studies Program, Emily is the Museum Engagement Coordinator for the Mayborn, where she oversees gallery floor staff. She volunteered for the Teen Takeover adult leader role two years ago because of her interest in working more directly with teens. About 25% of her job to café duties.


What organization provides a home for your Teen Café program? How do you see your program fitting with that organization’s mission?

The Mayborn Museum hosts the café. The Museum’s mission is to engage its community and inspire lifelong learning through its rich collections, vibrant programs, and hands-on experiences. Teen Takeover has folded in seamlessly with the work of the Museum Engagement Team, which works to develop programming for K-12 & family audiences.


What’s your biggest stumbling block as your program has developed?

Getting teens to become repeat café attendees has been the most challenging part – only 15% of  teens are repeated visitors.


What has been your favorite Café?

Her favorite café was the Halloween-themed program where teens decorated sugar skulls in the Design Den and got to engage with STEM professionals from the Waco community, including Ph.D. students at the University, Healthcare providers, and Technology specialists.










What do you like best about your program?

She enjoys seeing the teens form friendships and watching the Teen Takeover Team grow in their confidence and leadership during the planning process. It is great to see them devoting so much time to the program; one of the teens even comes from over an hour away. It is exciting for her to see them explore how STEM can manifest in their lives and learn more about STEM careers. Another highlight is watching teens grow up through the program; for example, a former Teen Takeover participant now goes to Baylor and is a part-time student employee involved with the Museum.


Do you have any advice for those just starting their Teen Cafés?

Emily suggests ensuring your café structure is sustainable for your organization to prevent burnout. The current iteration of Teen Takeover came from trial and error. Their former café structure met multiple times a year, but that model wasn’t sustainable for the staff long-term post-pandemic. Moving the program to once a semester allows more planning time to go into each café and yields a better result.




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