STEAM Rising: Mentors Across The Clubhouse Network Engage Youth in Creative Learning

Aviva Baff, Mentor Program Manager, The Clubhouse Network
October 18th, 2017
Posted In: In Real Life, Mentoring Stories

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The Clubhouse Network is an international community of 100 Clubhouses in 19 countries, providing youth with life-changing opportunities for nearly 25 years.

Walk into a Clubhouse and you’re likely to find a pleasantly chaotic scene: Youth and adult mentors are scattered around the space, filming in front of a green screen, building a drone, or clustered around a 3D printer.  A few youth might be sitting on their own, immersed in a project that they have been working on for weeks. Music is playing, and chances are you will hear some excited shouts as projects progress and everyone checks out what others are working on. This is The Clubhouse: a creative, safe, and free out-of-school learning environment where young people from underserved communities work with adult mentors to explore their own ideas, develop new skills, and build confidence in themselves through the use of technology.

At the Clubhouse young people tap into their own interests and engage in STEAM learning in ways that are meaningful, relevant, and authentic to them.  But the Clubhouse isn’t just about STEAM learning. It’s also about providing youth with adult mentors who serve as role models and believe in them, encouraging each young person to do and be their best. Clubhouses play a central role in the lives of many youth. Most go at least once a week, and half go almost every day. Youth members average 4.6 years of engagement. Many describe it as a second home, where they feel a sense of belonging that is missing in other parts of their lives.

At our site at the Hennepin County Library- Minneapolis Central, John, a member, came because of an interest in fashion design and immediately connected with Mary, a mentor with a background as a seamstress. Mary supported John as he began to design his own clothing, getting to know him and helping him cultivate his interests. As the mentoring relationship developed, John and Mary not only designed and made clothing together, but their conversations naturally led to academics, career goals and dreams, and higher education programs in fashion design. 

Engaging youth on a deeper level pays off: 93 percent of Clubhouse youth are interested in continuing their education after high school—this against a disturbing backdrop of high school drop-out rates and low college participation for youth in many Clubhouse communities—and over 90 percent care more about doing well in school and report that they try harder. Even more striking is the fact that youth feel more optimistic about their future (93%) and more confident they will have the personal skills to be successful in a future career (92%) (Inverness Research, 2016). The numbers may be compelling, but even more so is hearing directly from Clubhouse Alumni in this brief video in which several of them reminisce about their Clubhouse experience.

For STEAM Mentoring Month, The Clubhouse Network wants to share the most important lesson we’ve learned over the past 25 years: the impact of mentoring is greater when youth receive authentic support in a safe, supportive environment to follow their interests.

Learn more about The Clubhouse Network: www.TheClubhouseNetwork.org

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1 in 3 American youth don’t have access to a mentor’s guidance. Become a mentor in real life today and search for a Clubhouse in your area!

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