Library programs inspire teens to find purpose and pursue passions
The proof that libraries transform is clear for Demerus, a student whose visit to the Columbus Metropolitan Library three years ago changed his life.
Wandering into the YouMedia lab at Main Library, the Columbus teen met CML’s Max Lewis, a mentor who shared his enthusiasm for audio production and encouraged him to stay and explore music composition and audio editing. The Columbus Alternative High School student soon became a regular.
With Lewis’ guidance, Demerus produced songs using computers and audio editing software like Garageband and Ableton Live, and recorded vocals in the lab’s sound booth. It wasn’t long before he began performing the songs at all-ages shows at venues throughout Columbus.
While Demerus continued to develop new skills, he began teaching other teens about music production as a paid intern for the YouMedia summer program. His confidence and talent grew, and his grades improved. Demerus was hired for secondary jobs at The Ohio State University and at a retirement home. And he published his first CD and launched a website.
During the summer of 2015, he edited the SURGE Listens CD highlighting songs and spoken word pieces from teen musicians within the Columbus network. He also served as emcee for the SURGE Listens event.
Now completing his first year of college at The Ohio State University Newark, Demerus is studying marketing and music enterprise.
A student plays the guitar at Driving Park
Demerus’ story is one example of the innovative learning and growth opportunities CML provides to thousands of teens throughout central Ohio. As part of CML’s Young Minds strategy focused on high school graduation, efforts like YouMedia focus on helping teens build a foundation for a successful life.
“Our services for teens focus on education, support, positive identity and relationships and provide a holistic approach to helping teens work through school and life,” says Young Minds Program Leader Rochelle Lemaster.
The YouMedia program supports these areas by providing mentors who coach, listen to and teach teens. Through the program, teens learn digital art, music production, filmmaking, video game design and other 21st century learning skills. Through the SURGE network — a partnership that includes COSI, WEX, Transit Arts, Columbus Museum of Art and WOSU — students can learn 3-D modeling, art, dance and more.
CML launched YouMedia in 2013 with the intent of adding a higher impact service to the library’s existing Teen Services lineup that included the VolunTeen program, Homework Help Centers, College and Career programs, College and Career Fairs, Teen Book Clubs and Book Talks.
“Adding YouMedia allowed us to have one-on-one support and interaction with teens,” Lemaster says. “CML’s Teen Mentors provide individualized service and coaching based on what a teen needs. The program offers a teen a connected, caring adult who can help them identify their skills and talents and develop those into something they can later use in a job or college major.”
Today, more than 50 percent of jobs require some level of technological skill. By 2020, the number of tech jobs is expected to increase 20-30 percent. Through YouMedia, CML is ensuring that participants are well prepared to enter the workforce with skills they can’t get in school.
Teen Mentors Brandi Cunningham and Lewis helped create YouMedia at CML, a program loosely based on a similar initiative in Chicago. Through hanging out, messing around and geeking out — the HOMAGO philosophy — teens use technology to “hang out,” seek information online and “mess around” by experimenting with media, and “geek out” by diving deep into a specialized area of knowledge or interest.
This year, CML’s YouMedia lab programs have focused on storytelling. Teens are creating stories — in song, dance, art, writing, illustration and film — and will share their work August 12 at “Surge Tells,” a collaborative exhibition sponsored by CML and its SURGE partners. The event will be held at Transit Arts. At Driving Park, YouMedia participants have also had the opportunity to collaborate on a mural with artist Corrie Slawson.
Together, they have created lithograph prints that will be part of the finished work that will be permanently exhibited at the branch.
When Main Library opens on June 25, its YouMedia lab will also reopen, bringing the number of YouMedia labs in the system to three: Main, Driving Park and Whitehall. During the 2015-2016 school year, the YouMedia program at Driving Park and Whitehall has served 197 students, had 4,190 sessions and a 74 percent return rate of students.
Lemaster says a goal for YouMedia is repeat visits by students. “We have fewer students coming many times,” she says. “It takes practice to learn a new skill, and these teens are learning things like dedication, follow through, persistence, troubleshooting, and all the things they will need to be successful just by showing up every day or every week.”
The key to YouMedia’s success is keeping things approachable and flexible, Lewis says. The program allows students to choose things that interest them and offers programs and apps for all skill levels, from beginner to expert.
“We let them learn by doing, and have fun while they’re learning,” Lewis says. “If I was a kid, I would love YouMedia—I’d go crazy for it.”
“Kids drive the bus here,” Cunningham says. “No matter what their interest is — whether it’s digital art, music production, filmmaking or video game design — if they want to take the next step, we’re here to help them make it happen.”
For Cunningham, the program’s most important benefit is the opportunity it offers teens to experiment and learn alongside a dedicated mentor. “Kids need to build relationships,” Cunningham says. “They need to be able to count on someone and have consistency. Having an extra adult in their lives makes a difference.”
VolunTeens……TABs….Teen Book Talks
In addition to YouMedia, CML’s Teen Services lineup offers the following programs that are helping students prepare for school and life:
— The VolunTeen program offers a year-round volunteer experience for teens ages 12-17. Teens learn skills and responsibility while providing valuable support to staff, especially during the summer, when some 1,200 teens take advantage of this first-job experience. Other roles include working with younger children in the Homework Help Centers and as Reading Buddies, and assisting with programs and activities in the branches.
— For 2016, CML is introducing a developmental opportunity for teens that will allow them to use some of their volunteer hours at a branch to research colleges, careers and subjects they are passionate about. With the aid of staff, teens will participate in power lunches and conflict resolution classes, and have access to mentors who can offer guidance on choices about high school, college and beyond.
— CML’s afterschool Homework Help Centers benefit thousands of area K-12 students. This year, CML introduced college student volunteers to help younger students recognize that attending college is a goal they can achieve. Giving students something to strive for strengthens CML’s Young Minds goals and helps students understand that perseverance can lead to success. Both the Franklinton and Livingston branches have excelled at setting group goals for students and helping them achieve goals as a team.
— All branches are required to offer a college or career program each quarter in order to support CML’s High School Graduation Focus. With assistance from outside partners like colleges and community organizations, students learn about options they have for future careers and education and who to talk to when they’re ready to make these choices. Many branches offer career and college fairs that allow students to browse tables and learn about a variety of options. Both the South High and Martin Luther King branches have had successful fairs with more than 70 attendees.
— Many branches have book clubs or Teen Advisory Board groups (TAB) that enable teens to connect with both peers and library staff. The monthly or bi-weekly meetings include discussion of books and brainstorming about new programs and help solidify the role of teens in the library. CML’s Gahanna and New Albany locations have well-established TAB groups that are highly involved in branch activities.
— Book talks offer another way for teens to connect at a branch or at a school through conversation. The talks offer support for teens and use books as a door to larger conversations. Every year, the library hosts a visiting author, funded by the Friends of the Library and chosen with teen readers in mind. With visits and lectures in several branches, teens have an opportunity to interact with writers whose books they know and love.
Whether creating music and art, discussing books, volunteering, or exploring career opportunities, teens have a home at CML where they are learning the importance of building relationships, being part of community and giving back.