An Opportunity Like No Other
Teen Tech Squad (TTS) is a STEM-focused afterschool program that employs dozens of teens from the community to research, design, and implement twice-monthly, fun, hands-on education workshops for hundreds of students each year. The program is not only an incredible learning experience for the many students who flock to the workshops, but it is also an opportunity for the leaders to gain powerful employment skills, meaningful mentorships, and leadership training.
Shaping the Future
The steadfast growth of TTS programs hasn’t stopped with the ever-changing realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. TTS leaders have found new inspiration, adapting their programs and work to fulfill their mission of helping youth thrive more than ever before. They’ve increased access for leaders, added more participants through opened channels of communication, and developed new programs to adapt to the changing needs of the community. In August, a new cohort of 28 teen tech leaders were hired at a significantly increased wage of $20/hour. This increase provides fair compensation for their work and makes it possible for more teens to take these positions. Teen Tech Squads are excited to reconnect with community youth. Currently, they are busy creating pop-up STEM activities so that as soon as libraries re-open to in-person programming, they will jump into doing what they do best: growing, thriving, and dreaming big.
At the beginning of this job, I was very timid. I was more of a team member than a team leader. COVID pushed me to come out of my comfort zone. This was always something I struggled with, but with this job, I learned to speak and act confidently.
Each year, up to 34 high school students are employed that receive invaluable mentoring and leadership training.
Finding Inspiration from Challenge
In the past two years, TTS leaders have demonstrated extraordinary dedication and creativity in offering a huge variety of programs that safely meet the unique needs and interests of youth in their communities. Leaders at Brooklyn Park Library and Brooklyn Center Library partnered with the Brooklyn Park “Rec on the Go” program for activities like teaching youth to build their own terrariums. Hosmer Library TTS created a Minecraft Club where youth could alleviate isolation by meeting together and solving challenges in a virtual world. Inspired by the common struggle of at-home learning, the squad leaders at Franklin Library did a deep dive into the topic of motivation. They interviewed psychologists and social workers, then developed and distributed motivational kits to students.
Building the Leaders of Tomorrow
For every Teen Leader employed by TTS, dozens of young people gain opportunities for learning, fun, and teamwork. In 2021, TTS offered 68 workshops in various formats for approximately 750 young people, created and distributed 1,762 activities for kids to do at home, recorded 48 video workshops, and made 203 social media posts with short videos and tips. After attending the workshops, 96% of youth said they want to continue participating in STEM activities and felt that they could succeed at STEM activities like these in the future.
The TTS program goes beyond impressive numbers, helping participants and leaders alike grow in skills and confidence. One squad leader shared with us: “At the beginning of this job, I was very timid. I was more of a team member than a team leader. However, as time progressed, the size of our team became smaller. My shyness was getting tested more often. COVID pushed me to come out of my comfort zone so that the projects could become possible. At times, I acted as the team leader and shared more of my ideas. This was always something I struggled with in the past, but with this job, I learned to speak and act confidently.”
The Future of TTS Depends on Generous Support of Friends Like You
With the support of donors, Friends of the Hennepin County Library is contributing $542,000 in support of youth development programming, including Teen Tech Squad in 2022, which allows the continued development of future leaders in STEM across the county. The generous support of library Friends also offers our adult mentors and teen leaders the opportunity to pivot quickly to meet the challenges of today when the communities served by our eight Teen Tech Squads across Hennepin County are hit the most by hardship. As the program continues to adapt to the changing times, TTS leaders are committed to doing their best to ensure their programming continues to reach as many youth as possible, building futures and sparking inspiration.