An after-school program at the new Springfield Center of Innovation has been a major success this school year, with more than 2,000 visits since mid-August.
Last month, YouMedia Springfield, located on the third floor of the former Springfield and South High School at the Greater Springfield Career ConnectEd Center, saw its largest turnout with more than 1,000 visits from more than 260 unique high school students, said Kim Fish, the district’s director of communications and collective impact.
The learning lab averages about 80 students per day, she added.
“It’s been very popular, more popular than we initially thought it would be,” Fish said.
The program is designed to allow students to use updated digital technology with the help of community mentors. Students from the four-school consortium — Springfield High School, Springfield/Clark Career Technology Center, the Global Impact Stem Academy and Shawnee High School — have all attended the facility. The facility is open Tuesday through Thursday from 2-8 p.m. and Saturdays from noon-4 p.m.
Students can work with different technologies, including audio, video, photography, 3D printers and sewing machines. They can also just hang out or play video games, Fish said.
“They can follow their own interests and explore digital media and the creative arts,” Fish said. “They can express their own opinions, listen to other opinions, collaborate and because they’re doing things that matter to them, they stick with it longer.”
The equipment was paid for through the $11.3 million Straight-A grant from the Ohio Department of Education, while the $200,000 operating budget is being funded by the Springfield City School District. The district paid for software for four years to allow the program to continue through the 2018-19 school year, she said.
Positions from the former Learning Cafe, which struggled with low attendance numbers last year, were converted into two full-time positions for YouMedia, Fish said. They’re also using a grant from the ODE to pay for mentors, she added.
The popularity of several activities, especially sewing, has surprised staff members, Fish said. They introduced sewing earlier this semester and it became such a hit, they had to purchase more machines and add a sewing mentor, she added.
“We’re really learning as we go,” Fish said. “We’re really trying to respond to what they want to do.”
The after-school program is a necessary, creative outlet for students, said Springfield resident Raneca Crawford. Her son, Zion Jones, is a junior in the culinary program at the CTC and utilizes YouMedia.
Crawford said in light of recent shooting violence in Springfield, the facility is also a safe place for students to hang out after school, similar to the Boys and Girls Clubs she previously worked at in Las Vegas.
“I look at YouMedia as something that Springfield probably hasn’t had in a long time,” Crawford said. “People were waiting for something and this happened at a time when it was needed. (The students) were ready for it.”
Earlier this semester, Dosjine Brown, a junior in the information technology program at the CTC, made a promotional video for YouMedia. It included portions filmed with a drone outside of the school. While Brown’s passion is video, she’s also worked in the audio, sewing, 3-D printer and robotics portions of the program.
“I love it. It’s the best,” Brown said. “You’re free to do whatever you want. You can be creative.”
Shawnee senior Helen Horton has her own YouTube channel, Helen Horton Fashion & Beauty, where she’s been posting videos since 2013. She’s used the more advanced editing software to enhance her videos with graphics, she said.
“I love it so much,” Horton said. “This place has been such opportunity for the kids here in town. It’s really helped me open up a bunch of the creativity I have inside of me. It’s a great space to learn.”
The Maker Space, a similar program for middle school students, is also expected to open later this year, Fish said.