In a nutshell, describe your Teen Café program. What’s special or unique about it?
Our Teen Science Café is located at the Hilltop YMCA. We are new and still finding our way, but very enthusiastic and inquisitive. We have about 7-10 regular participants but we have grown with each Café and look forward to continued growth. Our YMCA Teen Leaders Club members operate as our core group for planning and recruiting for our Teen Science Cafés as it’s our long-standing, pre-existing Teen Program, which makes us unique. We use flyers, social media and word of mouth to recruit.
What’s your background? How did you become involved with your Teen Café program?
As a member of the the Million Girls Moonshot Initiative spearheaded by OAN and STEMNext, I became privy to the wonderful opportunities for teens in STEM. I’ve worked with Teens in the YMCA of Central Ohio for over 14 years. I am always looking for new ways to invigorate programming for youth 11-17.
What organization provides a home for your Teen Café program? How do you see your program fitting with that organization’s mission?
YMCA of Central Ohio. It fits perfectly with the mission of the Y to invite all who seek community and support in the areas of youth development, social responsibility, and healthy living. STEM careers and sharing the variety of ways teens can enter those fields is a great illustration of that.
What’s your biggest stumbling block as your program has developed?
Our biggest stumbling block has been getting consistent participation in the planning/recruiting process. Sometimes participants are absent from meetings which negatively impacts the word of mouth campaign for a Café, which forces us to rely heavily on the online modes of advertising for Cafés..
What achievement are you most proud of with your Teen Café program?
Starting our Cafés and gathering amazing Presenters to bolster each Cafés credibility amongst our youth participants. It was easier for them to share with peers and recruit when they attended and enjoyed it on their own. They didn’t have to theorize they could share their experiences.
What has been your favorite café and why?
Though I’ve loved our first two, I’m actually looking forward to our third Café on June 29th because it features a filmmaker videographer that will need out on capturing motion on film and developing it and how they came to that career.
What is one aspiration you have for your Teen Café program and how will you manifest it?
I aspire to maintain the cafés for several years to come and will accomplish that by keeping our youth engaged in STEM in other areas of our Teen programming to increase interest and recruitment pools.
Do you have any advice for those just starting, re-starting, or sustaining their own Teen Café program?
Advice for all: talk to the teens you want to invite and then convince their adult that they will be in a safe environment with their peers learning and growing in a fun way and their child will be fed before they ate returned to them! It will be hard for a while, but draft some presenters and topics and then let them design it from there, so that they have more ownership.