Meet the Neu-Media Studio
High quality virtual programs that bridge the gap between home and Neu-Life.
How will we reach our youth to continue the great work we do...during a pandemic? A question Neu-Life Executive Director, Jody Rhodes, considered when the whole country was put in lockdown back in March. Virtual programming was a no brainer, but how do we reach our youth in accessible ways?
In this post, we will discuss our approach to virtual engagement, continuous learning, some of our successes, and how we plan to expand our capacity to reach our youth; bridging the gap between Neu-Life and home to keep their support system in tact.
What is Neu-Media Studio, and why did we need it?
The concept of Neu-Media began when the surge of Covid-19 shut down the city, keeping youth at home and forcing our staff to work remotely to maintain the support system our families depend on. We quickly discovered limitations and needed a way to adapt our reach to our youth, to more effectively bridge the gap between Neu-Life and home. We needed resources. Youth needed the tech technology like laptops with webcams, and we needed an organized but flexible program that adapted to them wherever they were at.
Out of that, Neu-Media was born; A studio equipped with professional recording gear, mics, cameras, control station, green-screen backdrops and studio lighting. A place where Neu-Life staff pre-record or live broadcast virtual programming such as Farmfork, LifeSkills, Making Proud Choices, and Virtual TOP.
“With covid, we realized how challenging it was to engage with Neu-Life youth. We weren't set up for online programming," says Executive Director, Jody Rhodes. "The only way we had to contact youth at the time was through phone calls and text check-ins. We encouraged them to do their school work and incentivized our IXL math program, but we weren't set up for meaningful online programming. So I went to Misha Seigfried to discuss what it would it take to get our programming online. It was important for us to maintain high quality programming beyond check-ins on zoom or google classrooms. That’s where the idea for the studio came into play.”
How does it work?
Jody quickly got to work in April, writing grants to invest in equipment and technology that both Neu-Life staff and youth would need to make Neu-Media virtual programming a reality. Studio construction started in July and since then, staff have produced a variety of engaging programming for Neu-Life youth and keep them connected to the support system that Neu-life provides. A recent success was the live broadcast of the Annual Youth Summit.
The next phase of the program will offer youth opportunities in community activism, organizing and social justice issues while learning to powerfully use video and new media production skills. Participants will alternate between roles such as director, host, audio, and camera. They’ll collaborate to develop their ideas with pre-production worksheets that develop the script and“live” timelines for a broadcast or recording.
"We’re paying them for the opportunity to get their hands on tech and skills that won't cost them an arm and a leg to access lucrative careers.” - Misha Seigfried, Studio Manager
Green Bay Packers Give Back invested the first $10,000 in Neu-Media Studio to help with the laptops and other technology to distribute to Neu-Life youth. With a few month's worth of virtual programming behind us, we're working to better our best, improve our programming and importantly, expand support and partnerships to sustain and grow this critical safety net for Neu-Life youth.
“First, we identified the need, then we found funding, built a lab that's usable, workable and engaging and we launched it. Looking forward, we now know that we’ll need more studio equipment and that we plan to integrate studio production into Neu-Life programs – workgroups that benefit from the lab could include video and music production, marketing and social media engagement etc. It’s a great way to train young people in practical, high paying job skills like how to use and operate software and technical skills in media and graphics.” -Jody Rhodes, Neu-Life Executive Director
Putting it all together.
Wifi connection. "In order to support all of this new technology," says Rhodes, "Neu-Life had to up our own wifi. We also had to make sure that all of the youth here would have a strong wifi connection at home so that they would be able to join virtual programming." YWIC site coordinator, JaQuawn Seals, talked to youth and luckily, found that most had wifi or access to a smartphone hotspot.
Laptops. Initially, Neu-Life estimated that sourcing laptops would be a challenge based on experience with the Chromebooks youth had received from MPS. How could we do this better? Neu-Life partnered with local nonprofit Digital Bridge to purchase business-grade refurbished laptops for our virtual programs.
The studio creates more opportunities for Neu-Life staff. MishaSeigfried was promoted to studio manager, JaQuawn Seals became the broadcast lead announcer and all of the resilient YWIC staff have been flexible, adaptive and innovative in learning to teach online.
Special thanks to our very own tech-expert and studio connoisseur, Misha Seigfried, for leading the program launch.
In their own words: Why does Neu-Media Studio Matter?
“It matters because it helps keep the staff and youth employed, and gives us a way to continue to do prevention work and allows youth get the programs they need.” JaQuawn Seals, YWIC Site Coordinator
“To me it matters because of what’s going on in the world. It allows us to keep in contact with people while still being in safe distance. And it teaches kids more technology.” Delores Moore, Operations Manager
“It’s important because it gives the youth an opportunity to stay at neu life and an opportunity for staff to stay employed. It’s a big deal!” Amunique McGee, Farmfork Coordinator
“It’s important because we have the advantage now of virtual classes and we can still do events, keep Neu-Life going through the studio.” Ceejay Kendall, YWIC Lead Photography Teacher
“It’s important also to keep students safe, so that they won’t be at risk for catching Covid.” Tamesha Roberson, YWIC Lead Art Teacher
“The Neu-Media studio is important for Neu-Life because it enables us to develop innovative ways to offer programming; to provide direct service youth work in these trying times. It’s also important because it’ll give kids with creative talent a foothold in media production that’s unavailable to them anywhere else. We’re paying them for the opportunity toget their hands on tech and skills that won't cost them an armand a leg and to access lucrative careers.” Misha Seigfried, Neu-Media Studio Manager
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