I arrived at YOUmedia before the teens started coming in, so I got to explore the space. Even before it was packed with high school students from different parts of the city, the place had a lively aura to it. With bright lights, colorful walls, a host of exciting activities to try, and friendly staff, I instantly felt at home. Valerye, a teen librarian, was kind enough to give me an impromptu tour. As we started, Valerye pointed to a 3D printer and shared, “We really encourage each other to learn how to use the equipment, in better and in new ways. It’s nice to have a community of people working hard toward the same thing.”
There was so much to see! The first thing that struck me was how many materials and equipment YOUmedia had. Paints of every color, computers teens can use for photoshop or for live streaming, a recording studio to create your own music, sewing stations where you can design an outfit from scratch – you will find a home here. And that’s the difference. Most times, when you visit a new space it feels alien, like a museum. A place to see and not touch. But YOUmedia’s space just made me feel as if I’d been coming here for years.
As Valerye and I continued to walk around, two huge striking murals on opposite sides of the room caught my attention. As it turns out, a group of YOUmedia teens painted one of them. I was shocked and speechless, not only because of the artistic talent and the hard work clearly put into it, but also how willing the teen librarians and staff are to help teens unlock their potential. The YOUmedia librarians are incredibly supportive and ready to help. The mentors are truly here for you.
My short time at YOUmedia brought back a sense of deja vu. My classroom is tightly knit. Most of us are close friends, participating in activities together. This space reminds me of exactly that. I feel safe here. The YOUmedia librarians made it clear right from the start that this is a welcoming environment for all kinds of teens. Even if you are shy or introverted, there’s always something to do. You aren’t going to be pressured to do something you’re not comfortable with. You can just sit in a quiet corner to get lost in a book and still feel you belong. “I think it really helps to just start building a relationship with the teens right off the bat,” Valerye says.
I had never heard of YOUmedia before my time there. But now that I know about it, I definitely want to go more often. That is something, I have observed, that makes teens nervous. Expressing themselves, while still untainted by peer pressure and things of that sort. YOUmedia has both an accepting and kind feel to it, one where it’s encouraged to be yourself.
Thank you for the experience, YOUmedia! I’ll make sure to be back.