That’s a wrap!
After many wonderful, learning-filled years, CREATE Lab is finally saying goodbye to the Hear Me Project, but it's not goodbye forever. We’ll be watching and supporting our friends and partners who are running Hear Me projects and focusing our energy on how adults can cultivate youth voice while creating authentic pathways to audiences.
Over the last year, we trained and checked in with our partners from CMOA to 412 Youth Zone, Teen Bloc, Carlow University, and Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh Teen Services and The Labs. Now that they’re empowered to try out their own projects and dive into what it means to really hear youth, we won’t be doing outreach from the lab.
Our team will shift its energy to the Fluency Project at CREATE Lab. This project is asking how we build a technology fluent generation of young people, and some of the key ingredients are teacher and youth voice, the cultivation of empathy, and the confidence to tackle new technology.
We began, tasked with the goal of making youth voice a priority in Pittsburgh so that the region became a place recognized for caring about kids. We tried and experimented, and eventually found a few ways that we think did a pretty good job at that, and that also focused on putting young people first.
And now, we leave with our lessons learned:
We never saw ourselves as a technology project. We happened to use pretty simple and accessible technology to convince people that youth storytelling could change the world. For us, the technology came second, every time, after the necessary work of building community, relationships, and safe spaces for youth. The relationships matter so much more than technology.
Listening, and learning how to really listen, is powerful. You can do a lot more for people by just listening sometimes, than putting a lot of other resources on something.
Adults don’t always know how to listen. This included us too. Our adult ways of thinking, we realized, impeded our ability to get on the ground and collaborate with young people sometimes. We learned a lot about how change that from studying Dana Mitra, Adam Fletcher and the Washington Youth Voice Handbook, Roger Hart, People in Education, and Tom Akiva.
Youth work meant showing up as your whole self. That meant that being vulnerable, honest, and human with young people was the only way to show them that it was ok to do the same.
Being the steward of someone’s story comes with a lot of responsibility and demands humility. People asked to Hear Me to retell the stories of others, instead of listening to the audio. Why this could get problematic became super clear during the Police-Youth Relations project. It took us to understand that adults wanted context for youth’s stories, and struggled to find the root of what young people were trying to communicate.
Creators, not consumers. We believe that this role be the role of young people when it comes to media. It addresses how youth are excluded from creating narratives, and also how they are positioned to not have the authority to create media. It illuminates some of the concepts of adultism, that society is really structured with a bias for adults, and against youth. This project and our work challenges the ideas that youth should be passive consumers of media, of knowledge. Our experience here proves that to be completely wrong, and yields the lesson that being a producer means that you’re participating, that you’re demonstrating active agency.
For teens who are looking for media and voice services, we point them to our friends at the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Teen Services plans to continue using the Hear Me kiosks to amplify youth voice. Stop by to see how they incorporate interviewing, storytelling and audio recording into programs for teens. Or check out the Hear Me kiosks, featuring teen-created content in library spaces so that teens can not only see and hear their work shared in a busy, public space, but also be inspired by one another.
We want to send love to:
Devontay Eberhardt and Michael Worthy, the original Hear Me interns.
Our founders and former directors, and colleagues at CREATE Lab
Our funders for their faith and guidance
Our founding partners, from whom we learned tricks of the trade and the stakes of the work
Melanie Brown for her mentorship
Our campaign partners:
Education Law Center
Allies for Children
Southwestern Pennsylvania Food Security Partnership
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
Personal Robotics Lab
Our partners who carry on the Hear Me work:
412 Youth Zone
Kelly Rottmund, Patrick Coyle, and Rebecca Jacobson at the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh Teen Services, and formerly, Corey Wittig
Teen Bloc at A+ Schools
Magee Womencare International Youth Leadership Project
Dr. Gerlach at Shaler Elementary School
And all of the Hear Me kiosk hosts
The Hear Me 101 student interns
Susan Howard, Molly Deurig, Jess Weichler, and Louis Cappa
Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Services
Laura Roop and the Western PA Writing Project
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
The Consortium for Public Education
Thanks for everything,
Jessica “JP” Pachuta