Staffing

The staff is comprised of mentors, administrators, security, and coaches. Here’s the roll call for who you will need in a YOUmedia space.

Mentors - for more on mentors, click here

Cybernavigator - checks out equipment and helps with online searches

Coach - trains, supports, and provides feedback to staff working directly with youth

Coordinator - oversees workshops, recruits youth, and is a community liaison, and online manager for iRemix.

Site Director - day-to-day management and operations, builds community partnerships, develops resources, handles marketing, program evaluation

Security - creates a relaxed and safe environment for youth and staff

Guest Resource Experts - provide skill-based workshops, including those for parents and teachers when needed

Homework Tutors - i.e. certified teachers

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q How do we begin to determine staffing needs?

Given the critical role of mentors and staff, staffing is key to programming. At ARTLAB PLUS in Washington DC, staffing is determined by attendance. As attendance has grown, so has the need for additional staff. On a typical day, ARTLAB PLUS has between 25 and 30 teens visit during the week and between 35 and 45 on the weekends. When it’s really busy, it helps to have 3-4 staff people working, and you should always have a cybernavigator on each shift—the person who is the greeter, registers people for the day, checks out equipment for teens, and performs other tasks. One to three mentors are needed per shift for approximately 30-45 teens.

Q Why mentors? What do they do?

Mentors are institutional staff members, artists, and  instructors who guide youth as they explore digital media. They might be digital media experts, spoken word poets, filmmakers, sound mixers, librarians, museum staff, and more. They should be accessible both online and face-to-face. Mentors will lead the workshops based on youth interests, help them develop media skills, and make YOUmedia a fun place to be.

They are critical to YOUmedia spaces.

In the YOUmedia Record Label project, for example, mentors nudge and guide and help students find their strengths. While mentors step out of the way and let youth follow their interests, they do help them get from point A to point C in the project, which in this case is writing, producing, and marketing their own music using the YOUmedia recording studio and online tools. The mentors have professional experience as a songwriter and music engineer.

“During their time working on these projects, students may run into various troubles with the equipment, the direction of the song they’re creating, or just not be sure of their available options as they create,” says the lead mentor, writing in “YOUmedia Signature Projects.” “These are those teachable moments that I focus on when they come to me with questions to resolve their issues. These are the moments when they are leveling up because they seek out the solutions to these problems.”

The mentor provides a lesson in constructive critique, which is a major element of the songwriting and recording project, and provides feedback on the students’ critiques of others. The mentor also exposes them to the work of other artists they might not be familiar with, often bringing in colleagues in the field to jam.

The mentor also designs and holds several related workshops: one on engineering (recording, editing and mixing); one on songwriting and music composition; and one on graphic design for the labels.

Q What qualities do we look for in a mentor?

Mentors help students develop new media literacies. They are the coaches, instructors, and cheerleaders. A candidate should have:

  • Leadership skills - To build strong bonds, kids must be able to relate to mentors. They must have the twin traits of motivating kids to venture out of their comfort zone and to empower youth to be self-directed learners. They must also be able to provide helpful critiques in online forums and in workshops.
  • Personal portfolios - Best fits are experienced in digital filmmaking, sound engineering, video gaming, or art.
  • Pedagogical knowledge - Mentors must not only be good in their field, but they must be able to teach it. Mentors with a firm grasp of learning pedagogy will likely meet with more success in helping youth develop digital media skills.
  • New media skills - Mentors must technically fluent enough to lead new media workshops and demonstrate tools and media. The more types of digital skills, the better. It helps to be able to know both filmmaking and Final Cut Pro, for example.

Our experts talk in more depth about the qualities of good mentors in the following videos.

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Q How does staffing connect to research?

Mentors are the conduit between hanging out, messing around, geeking out. Their personal experience as artists and creators helps develop youths’ interests and shows them how to stretch their abilities. Mentors are essential scaffolding for self-directed, interest-driven learning that happens at YOUmedia sites.

Q Where will we find mentors?

Tene Gray, director of Chicago's Digital Youth Network, offers tips for finding and recruiting good mentors. And here's a recent blog post by Tene on mentors. DYN is in many ways the inspiration for YOUmedia, and remains closely connected to the Chicago YOUmedia.

Q How should we evaluate mentors?

Digital Youth Network's Tene Gray discusses the important pieces in any of evaluation.

Q How do we structure professional development?

The Digital Youth Network and Chicago Public Library have designed professional development for mentors. DYN's Tene Gray discusses how to design professional development (PD) for a variety of different roles. The Chicago Public Library's Jennifer Steele discusses professional development more broadly.

 

Q How does professional development evolve over time?

Digital Youth Network's Tene Gray has developed professional development for YOUmedia. She discusses how it evolves over time here.

Q Besides mentors, what other staff are needed?

This will depend on the type of organization YOUmedia is housed in.

If YOUmedia is in a museum, for example, it’s important to hire staff members who reflect your audience, and this often means staff members who are from the same community as the people who visit your museum. It’s also important to recruit museum educators, artists, designers and technicians who have worked with teens before, who understand teen culture, and want to use the technology that teens use. At the ARTLAB PLUS space, a majority of the staff was hired from the Washington DC area. The program also has an internship program and many of the interns for that program were hired from all across the United States.

Here’s Jennifer Steele on the importance of Cybernavigators in the Chicago branch libraries:

Q What are lessons learned about recruiting and maintaining staffing needs?

YOUmedia leaders reflect on the lessons they've learned about staffing.

Tim Lord at DreamYard discusses how he taps other programs they work with to recruit youth and how to help young people overcome barriers to participating.

Tim Lord at DreamYards discusses how the importance of involving young people in the decisions.

Chicago YOUmedia's Amy Eshleman focuses on the critical role of mentors and how to support them, and in particular the importance of giving staff downtime to reflect.

Ryan Hill at ARTlab+ discusses what it takes to build a successful mentoring staff.

79 Comments
Q How do we create a cohesive team?

Chicago YOUmedia's lead mentor Brother Mike Hawkins discusses the importance of understanding what your mission is and how to tap staff's skills that might be outside their job title.

Tim Lord at DreamYard discusses the importance of finding people with the organization's core values, and the importance of giving people the freedom to innovate.

Q What percent of total budget is devoted to staff?

At least 50% of your total budget will be devoted to staff if you already have a space. When you first start, the space and equipment are taking up a good portion of your budget.

Here's more information on budgets.

Q What are sample job descriptions?

Here's sample job descritions of three key roles at YOUmedia. These are not cast in stone, but are examples to get you started thinking about your own job descriptions:

Q What are sample interview questions for hiring staff?

Interview questions will vary depending on the YOUmedia program, but here's a sample from an interview with a cybernavigator at YOUmedia.

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Q Where do we recruit mentors and other staff?

DreamYards' director Tim Lord points to the importance of casting a wide net when recuriting mentors and staff.

(The Hive Learning Network that Lord mentions is a community of civic and cultural institutions dedicated to transforming the learning landscape, and creating opportunities for youth to explore their interests in virtual and physical spaces. Through the Hive, youth will have multiple, continuous and connected opportunities to explore their intellectual and skill-based interests.)

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Q Should we partner with an outside educational organization or hire directly?

This will depend on the type of space. ARTlab+ in the Hirshhorn Museum partners with the Digital Youth Network and community partners such as the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies, the Girl Scouts and the YMCA as well as with three charter schools in Washington DC.

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