That's a wrap!

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:

Grace Enick

412 Youth Zone

Kelly Rottmund, Patrick Coyle, and Rebecca Jacobson at the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh Teen Services, and formerly, Corey Wittig

Carlow University

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

Jessica Harrell

Thanks for everything,

Jessica Kaminsky

Jessica “JP” Pachuta

Ryan Hoffman

Alex Woodring

Paul Dille

Hear Me - New Zealand edition

Guest Blog from Jess Weichler

When the Gender Bias in STEM campaign was announced on the Hear Me website I was excited by the prospect of collecting stories from kids in New Zealand.  I am originally from the United States and was interested in gathering an international perspective to see how cultural differences might influence ones perceptions on gender as it relates to skill. 

During an Hour of Code event in Wellington, New Zealand I collected stories alongside programmer Seth Kenlon.  We set up a booth where attendees could choose to be interviewed in-between sessions on video game programming and robotics.  

We had no age requirements, but our interviewees ended up being quite young, between the ages of 8 and 11.  I was surprised to hear that many of them didn’t seem to have even entertained the notion that gender might influence a person’s interests and skills.  When we told the kids that statistically, there are more boys who choose to study STEM topics than girls, half of them said they weren’t aware of the statistic, then went silent. 

The only real, strong declaration of gender bias came from a young girl, Paisley, who proudly asserted that boys weren’t good at art.  When probed to expand upon her reasoning she said simply “I’ve seen a lot of boys at school who don’t draw as well as girls.“ The boys we interviewed were incredibly perceptive, most of them stating that they thought boys and girls were equal in regards to skill. However, they expanded on those ideas by questioning whether everyone shared the same set of interests. Each boy supposed that the primary drive to learn something was an interest in the subject, and the opportunity to pursue those interests. They didn’t question where interests originate, but didn’t attribute it to gender, either.
A more general observation of our time collecting interviews was the shyness of many of the kids.  On many questions, they declared that they didn’t have any opinion.  I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t have a favourite subject, even if it is just lunch.  They were all very wiling to participate, but when the microphone was on they were hesitant to speak up.  Though it would be a pain from a recording standpoint, Seth and I wonder if our interviewees might have had more to say in a group setting where they are already accustom to making themselves heard.

As this campaign progresses in many different cities and schools, I am interested to hear how responses might vary throughout the pre-teen and teen years.  As a technology educator, I have witnessed first-hand the drastic drop off of female students through the teen years in technology-based subject.  I feel getting more responses throughout a diverse age range may provide important data.  Do perceptions about the skills sets of boys and girls change? If so, when and why do they change? Data about this is well worth gathering and studying, to understand the trend, and to learn how we educators and mentors might influence this.

We Live Here Art Show

On October 2, 2015, Homeless Children's Education Fund and its Collaborators, including Art Expression and the GLCC, coordinated an art show with youth from "Service Access for Youth." At the art show, youth exhibited and sold their work, and raised awareness of youth experiencing homelessness in the Pittsburgh region. You can hear the story of the show on the Hear Me Podcast for February 2016. With permission, here are photos of some of the work.

Trinity "Untitled"
Niecey "The Collision" Niecey "Love"
Niecey "Take Me Away"
Naya "Untitled"
Maimor "New Beginnings"
Miamor "Changes"
Kyle "Untitled"
Brenna "Untitled"
Arrow and Naya "Collaboration Six"
Arrow "Five"
Aiden "Untitled"

Financial Literacy for High School

Guest blog from Moneythink CMU

Moneythink CMU is the Carnegie Mellon chapter of a national organization oriented at educating today’s youth in financial literacy. Our chapter of over 40 CMU students goes in weekly to mentor high school students in various underprivileged high schools around the greater Pittsburgh area. In partnership with Hear Me, our chapter interviewed a handful of our mentees to garner their feedback on how not only the material we teach, but also our mentorship impacted them.

We interviewed them in person, to increase receptivity, using voice recordings to allow us to get to know the students more personally and for them to have a more meaningful impact to those who listen to these testimonials – as opposed to having the students respond through a more detached written form of evaluation of their thoughts. The feedback we received narrated how the students lacked basic personal finance skills from their past education. But we were humbled by how they soon revealed both how thankful they were to learn the skills we taught them and how it changed their habits in their everyday lives. These changes impacted their personal spending and saving habits in a positive way as they recognized the value in utilizing institutionalized financial services instead of managing it all themselves – a financially sound choice.

The clips we highlight here illustrate the impact Moneythink has had on three students from Taylor Alderdice High School. One of these students, Henry, shared how our program forged an interest in alternative money-saving techniques, not the least of which includes stockbroking. His newfound understanding of the concept of risk and return, a concept to which not many Americans today have been exposed, once again, highlights the unique impact Moneythink has had, and continues to have, on students at such a tender age. Personally, I found Henry’s precocity in his knowledge of financial markets to be unbelievably amazing considering the fact that he attends a secondary school where most of his peers have trouble understanding basic financial literacy, let alone financial markets. If I were in his shoes, and grew up in his environment, I am not sure whether I would have been able to achieve the level of understanding he has procured, which further underscores Henry’s altogether remarkable skill set. Listen to Henry's interview here.

Another student, Seti, has expressed how Moneythink has enabled him to become far more informed on topics ranging from credit cards, debt, and loans, to saving by differentiating between his needs and wants. His poignant accounts of taking loans from his family indicate that our curriculum has allowed him to graduate from many of his peers, who simply are given grants, in the form of allowance, from their parents. Furthermore, through his job and prudent spending, which is curtailed by his cognizance of when he is spending on something essential or superfluous, Seti is able to maintain a clean balance sheet with his finances. I was particularly impressed by the manner in which Seti was able to articulate the method by which he acquired his loans. From this impression, I must say that it is reasonably foreseeable that Seti will look into pursuing opportunities in the financial sector. Listen to Seti's interview here.

Our third student, Tess, demonstrated a rather sophisticated understanding of interest rates. Like Henry, Tess has also striven to procure a future in stockbroking as she expressed a keen gravitas for the topics discussed by Moneythink. Armed with this nascent appreciation for personal finance, Tess distinguishes herself in an affirming way from her peers which will carry her above and beyond the competition as she enters into this brave new world, for which she is sure to thank Moneythink. Tess surprised me with her analytical understanding of interest rates, a highly quantitative skill. Because interest rates are concept which not many people at such a young age understand, Tess’ acumen in this subject firmly makes me believe that she will be able to capitalize on her knowledge at a much faster rate when she enters the workforce, a competitive advantage which I find empowering. Listen to Tess's interview here.

A trip to ALEC

Guest blog from Shushman Choudhury

An interesting aspect of communicating with children is the refreshing forthrightness of it. Whether they are articulate about some topic or not, they usually do not hesitate to tell you what they think, if you establish a good rapport with them. I was pleasantly reminded of that fact when I went to conduct my first set of interviews as a volunteer for the Hear Me initiative. We visited the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center, an after-school center for primary school children in the Allentown area.

It was a chilly Thursday afternoon when we arrived, but the place warmed my heart instantly. We were graciously welcomed by one of the people in charge, Amber. Inside was a joyous cacophony of children - running around, sneaking a tidbit here and there, creatively expressing themselves, and just being happy. I was immediately approached by this bright and assertive young lady, Kaylee, who wanted to sell us ice-cream (colourful cups of wool). Jess agreed to buy some, but not having any money at the time, she offered to teach Kaylee how to use one of our recorders. Needless to say, that brief exchange was already enough to make my day, because it captured the essence of why we were there.

The interviews were quite intriguing. I spoke with a few boys aged between 7 and 9. I tried to avoid patronizing them while speaking with them. I explained to them why their views were important for people to hear, and why it was important they not hold back. In general, I was rewarded with their candour. The audio clips on the website will have the actual content that people can listen to, so I won’t try to paraphrase what they were saying too much.

Some particular anecdotes stand out in my memory. When asked whether boys were better at girls in math and science, seven-year-old Liam emphatically stated that they were both people, and so there was no reason to think they would be any different at the same thing. Nine-year-old David seemed a bit skeptical of the whole thing. He disapproved of my choice of sneakers, justifiably so I think (being a graduate student, I have no illusions about my taste in apparel). Initially, he was reluctant to open up, finding it weird to have a recorder thrust in his face. Eventually, his interview went on to be the longest, so I am glad he overcame his awkwardness. Kejuan began by asserting that boys and girls were pretty much the same at everything, but after some more specific questions, started to appear more convinced of the superiority of boys in some domains, and of girls in some other. It’s interesting that at all of eight years of age, he had already started thinking about the way his opinions would be perceived by others.

The opinions seemed to either be that boys and girls are equal at science and math, or that boys are better. That does not dishearten me necessarily though. These boys are still very young, and issues of gender are perhaps not too high in their list of priorities. If anything, this highlights the fact that kids are forming opinions at young ages, based on what they observe around them. Therefore, putting more emphasis on inculcating the right ideas from an early stage could be very beneficial.

I finished up the interviews with a great sense of satisfaction. I was even more delighted to see that Kaylee had mastered the use of Jess’ recorder by then, and was expertly going around asking people questions. It made me reflect on how important it was to hear what schoolchildren have to say, so that adults can do better for children like Kaylee, and the boys I interviewed, and so many others, in creating a harmonious, mutually respectful environment for boys and girls.

As a graduate student, I often fall into the trap of having an inflated sense of self-importance about the work I do. Experiences like the one at ALEC help to keep me aware of the bigger picture, and of the myriad other issues outside research. All of us have a role to play, in whatever way, to help balance the scales between the sexes in education, after centuries of oppression and injustice had dented them. I hope hearing these young, honest voices can help in that regard.

Hear Me Kiosks at CMU start conversations about Gender & STEM

Hear Me is two months into its Gender Bias and STEM campaign. So far we have interviewed two groups of students (middle school girls in a STEM program at CMU and elementary and middle school students in an after-school program at Assemble), and their stories are on the website here ( We have also trained two groups of CMU volunteers on Hear Me interviewing techniques and best practices, and will be training another group of volunteers at Penn State New Kensington in January 2016.

But we didn't want to wait to start sharing what the students are saying! We have installed Hear Me kiosks in 3 locations on CMU’s campus - one in a high-traffic corridor and two next to communal kitchens. We intentionally installed these kiosks in places people congregate, and where passers-by will be intrigued enough by the kiosks to listen and respond to the students’ stories. These kiosks will remain up at CMU through Spring 2016, and we will update the featured stories.

The following stories were featured in the kiosks in November and December -

Between November 30, 2015 and January 5, 2016, the three kiosks had a total of 963 play, and within the first week of putting up these kiosks we had about 20 handwritten responses! This has surpassed the interactions of all of the previous records for responses in a week (except maybe the kiosk outside of Square Café).

Listeners of the kiosks are prompted with the question displayed on the kiosk, “Has gender bias impacted your learning or career opportunities?” The majority of individuals have responded with personal stories of the discrimination they have faced or seen related to gender. Some of the longer responses are below. As an interesting aside, this is the first time response writers have self-identified their gender in a response.

We plan to put more kiosks up at CMU, and to transition our current kiosks displayed around Pittsburgh to feature these campaign stories in Spring 2016. If you aren’t near a kiosk, you can always write responses to the stories on our website (although you do need an account to comment). Additionally, you can sponsor a kiosks featuring stories from this project for $150.

We will be visiting more schools and organizations in January and February 2016. If you are interested in having Hear Me and the CMU volunteers visit your students, please contact Jess Kaminsky (

Gender Bias and STEM Campaign

Does gender bias impact students’ attitudes and successes in STEM education?

Current trends and research in education emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and STEM career training. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that there will be more than 1.4 million job openings in computing-related fields by 2020. As STEM training becomes more essential, it is important to recognize the gender gap in both STEM careers and education. For example, girls make up 56% of total AP test-takers but only 19% of AP computer science test-takers. At the university level, women earn 57% percent of all undergraduate degrees, but only 19% of all undergraduate computer and information sciences degrees.1 

Hopefully by now you have heard about Hear Me’s current campaign where we are asking students about the impact gender bias does or doesn’t have on STEM education and careers. As part of this campaign, Hear Me will be interviewing around 150 students from schools and community organizations, of all ages.

For this campaign, we are adding a new partnership – Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science. We are welcoming volunteers from SCS to interview alongside us; ten staff, faculty, and students have already trained with Hear Me to understand our equipment and best practices.

After the winter break, they will be visiting schools and organizations with us to interview students. Stories gathered through this campaign will be shared with the CMU SCS community, superintendents, and other interested audiences.

This is new for us in several big ways:

1) We have never worked this closely with the CMU community, because it is drastically different from the research and robots surrounding us. This has been a disconnect for Hear Me since its start, and we are happy to be intentionally connecting Hear Me’s work with CMU community.

2) We have never trained adults to join us in the interviewing process! Typically, we train 1-2 adults to do interviews with students they work with. This time, a bunch of adults will be interviewing students on one topic, and visiting schools and organizations together.

3) We have never had an audience also be part of the interviewing work. For most of our work, we have an audience that only receives information at the end of the project, and commits to connecting voices to decisions. These volunteers will be much more integrated through the whole process - helping to capture students’ experiences related to STEM and gender bias, sharing their experiences as interviewers back with their peers at CMU, and hearing the final products as presented to the CMU SCS audience.

By working more closely with SCS, we are hoping that these stories will build bridges between K-12 youth in Greater Pittsburgh and the CMU SCS community.  We are also asking how adults can help young people recognize and close gender gaps, and we want your participation. 

If your school or organization is in the Greater Pittsburgh region and is interested in having Hear Me visit to interview students, please contact Jessica Kaminsky. We will be conducting do the majority of the interview visits in January and February, but it’s never too early to schedule a visit! If you are outside of this region but want to contribute, students can respond to the questions listed on our website and upload their media to the Hear Me website.

Including student voices in PPS Superintendent search

In the Fall of 2015, Dr. Linda Lane, the Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent announced that she would retire at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.

Since then, community members have openly debated about the appropriate methodology for choosing the next superintendent, who has a myriad of administrative issues and changes to face at the district in the coming years. 

However, many of these same community groups agree on one thing – that student voices can’t be excluded from the selection decision.  To do this, Hear Me was asked to partner with Great Public Schools and also with the youth empowerment champions at TeenBloc (a program of A+Schools) to capture students’ experiences and perspectives on what their next superintendent should prioritize and care about.   Great Public Schools is recruiting teachers on the ground to record their students’ stories.  Teachers are using available technology and are eligible to borrow from Hear Me’s lending library of audio recorders.  Meanwhile, TeenBloc students went through Hear Me ‘s audio recording training and created their own set of student-oriented questions, and are pursuing interviews with peers.

A sampling of the questions we are asking include:  

  • What are the qualities you want the new superintendent to have?
  • What are the most important issues facing your school or What issues should the superintendent focus on?
  • What should the superintendent know about students?

Some of the early stories talk about focusing on career training, small student to teacher ratios, representative history curricula in the classroom, and increasing teacher diversity.  You can find the collection here, and look forward to a Hear Me podcast about this in early 2016.

As always, anyone is able to submit media ( although content is moderated before it is live on the website.  Media can be written, picture, audio, or video.  For more information, contact us at

Kiosk Responses from the Thomas Merton Center

On Friday October 2, The Thomas Merton Center hosted 10 Hear Me Kiosks as part of their gallery for Unblurred: First Fridays on Penn. 

Merton Center staff encouraged listeners to respond to 5 different questions posted on the kiosks and on the Merton Center Walls.

In his story, 19-year-old Jamal discusses how law enforcement targets juveniles. Listeners then answered the question,"How can we foster a positive relationship between police and youth?"

13-year-old Quinton's "Kids are Struggling" had 82 listens throughout the night and asked listeners, "How does having access to tutors affect academic performance?"

Responses included: 

After hearing stories on school climate, listeners were asked, "What makes our school community a positive and safe place for learning?" Kristen's "Security Guards and Teachers with Guns" had 80 plays and elicited the following responses:

Two kiosks featured stories from Somali-Bantu refugees on identity. Stories from Sangab and Saraji totaled 77 plays and asked listeners, "How do our personal experiences influence our identities?"

Overall the night was a success - the Kiosks totaled nearly 500 plays and elicited thoughtful responses from listeners.  Thanks to the Thomas Merton Center for hosting the kiosks and everyone who participated! 

To host your own Hear Me Kiosk, email

My Hear Me 101 Internship

By guest blogger and Hear Me 101 Intern, Abbey Caspar. 

Well, This is my last week at my Hear Me 101 Internship. For those who don't know about it, let me explain...

Last year, Steel Valley's Hear Me 101 group produced a short film about Stereotypes. There were 10 students who worked on it. We chose the topic and interviewed students, teachers and professionals. We then edited the film for two weeks. During the whole process, we learned so much. 

(pictured above: Abbey brainstorming ideas during early stages of film production)

Some people in our group had no idea what a stereotype was, others shared their story about being stereotyped. We learned that stereotyping goes both ways. When someone stereotypes, they make an assumption about a person or group of people and miss an opportunity to get to know them. Throughout the process of making the film, we worked with students who told us how they had been personally stereotyped and talked to experts about how stereotyping affects people.

Before we knew it, we finished the film, which was screened at Pittsburgh Filmmakers on May 14th. Our families got to come out and watch all of our hard work. We also learned about the Hear Me 101 internship at the CREATE lab at CMU. I applied and wrote an essay on why student voice is important. I got the internship. I wasn't the only one. Two other students are interns, Kyle and Antonio, from McKeesport.

During the internship, we had to market our film and get it out there for the world to watch. We also were able to help with a camp at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and we traveled to Harrisburg to speak at a rally for Fair Education Funding.

(pictured above: interns Abbey and Kyle hold fair funding signs in Harrisburg)

My capstone project was to connect my film with a specific audience to raise awareness about stereotyping. So my plan is to screen the film to the incoming 9th graders on their transition day at Steel Valley High School. I think this will get them to understand that just because someone doesn't look like you, doesn't mean they don't like the same things as you. I am excited to have them watch the film. 

(pictured above: Abbey and Kyle share their campaigns with the CREATE Lab at CMU)

So, that is what I did during my internship and I could not have asked for a better way to spend my summer. If you have not watched the short film, watch it here


Share the film with #notmytypefilm.

For more information, email