Better Late Than Never/Youth-Led Badging Orientation

Well, I guess I’ve already failed to maintain a weekly posting schedule, thanks primarily to last week being a short one because of the Fourth of July and taking a day out of the office to walk with the Society in the Chicago Pride Parade. One thing that makes working in our particular department fun and interesting is that we all get many opportunities to participate in a wide variety of events and programs, which can include marching in a parade, accompanying Canine Good Citizen volunteers to help provide stress relief to hospital employees, or hosting an informational booth among the lions, tigers, and bears at the Brookfield Zoo.

And sometimes, you get to launch a whole new city-spanning program (with the help of a generous grand from Hive Chicago). That’s going to be our big project this week, when we kick off our Youth-Led Badging program with the Chicago Public Library, Chicago Botanic Garden, and Project Exploration. I briefly mentioned this project in the last post, but the basic idea is to bring in 20 teens from around the city to work in our Education & Training Center, at the Chicago Botanic Garden (representing both their organization and Project Exploration), and various CPL locations around the city. The teens will be tasked with recruiting their peers to drop into their work sites to participate in programs and claim their Chicago City of Learning (CCOL) badges.
That’s obviously a very broad explanation of the program, but for the sake of this point that is not really our main concern. This week was all about just getting our ducks in a row and kicking off the program with our training/orientation for the teens (and their program supervisors), which took place on July 8.

Since The Anti-Cruelty Society is listed as the lead on the grant, organizing this huge, city-spanning project fell primarily on the shoulders of our Manager of Humane Education, Elliott Serrano, and Lydia Krupinski, the Director of Community Programs. After a series of conference calls with our grant partners and inner-departmental meetings, we finally planned the four-hour orientation. All that was left was actually doing all of the work necessary to pull it off!

The first thing we had to do was contact our on-staff graphic designer (which is a very handy person to have around, if you don’t already), who quickly went to work creating a logo and aesthetic that would be unique to the Youth-Led Badging program. Because we are developing and running this program in conjunction with three other organizations, it was important that the materials that we provided to all of the program’s participants didn’t appear to be specifically branded with our logo and style. Everything that we created for the orientation, as well as anything we make for the program moving forward, uses the logo and design that our designer created, from the badges on the CCOL website to the customized folders that we provided for each teen.
To fill out the four-hour event, we came up with a number of different presentations designed to help the teens prepare for their work in the program. Some of these presentations were handled by our department; for instance, Lydia gave two 30-minute presentations on using WordPress (shout out to our host site) and Marketing 101, which we had originally tapped our PR Manager to give, but that didn’t work out due to a scheduling conflict. Elliott gave a presentation on the step-by-step process of how to go about badging a teen using the CCOL website. However, we also brought in the big guns, and for the overview of CCOL and the badging program, CCOL’s own Tene Gray came in to give the kids the 411 on the basics of badging.

Working in informal education in Chicago means that the summer is going to be your busiest time of year (it also means that it will be over before you’ve even really had a chance to enjoy it, but that’s another story), and so even with four independent organizations working on this program, it can be hard to get everyone on the same phone call – so forget trying to put us all in a room together! As a result, we had a responsibility as the lead organization on this grant to sit down and really hammer out all of the finer details about how this program would be run, and then communicate those ideas to the others. This includes the duration of the program based on the funding and amount of hours outlined in the grant (50 hours per teen, so the program will run from approximately August – November to accommodate that), the methods of payment and how regularly the students will be paid, and really anything else that we think would make this whole thing more engaging for our teens.

One of the better ideas that came from our brainstorming was the decision to create “milestone” rewards for our 5 teens that will be working at The Anti-Cruelty Society (this is all coming back around to the orientation, I promise). The grant defines our primary goal for the program as having all 20 teens collectively badge 300 other Chicago teens through the CCOL platform. When we broke it down, this meant that each teen should be responsible for approximately 15 badges. To incentivize our teens to reach that goal, we created three milestone rewards for when they badge 5, 10, and 15 teens. Working at an animal shelter provides us with certain advantages, so our rewards are the opportunity to name a litter of puppies or kittens, 20 minutes inside of a “puppy pit,” and at 15 badges, teens get to spend the entirety of a work shift hanging out with a cat or dog living in the shelter.

We’re obviously trying to encourage our partners to come up with their own reward systems, so to get everybody on board, we followed up our initial 15-minute introduction part of the organization by throwing all of the teens into a puppy pit in our Education & Training Center’s training room. (In case it’s not obvious, a puppy pit consists of sitting on the floor in a room and just enjoying a presence of a litter of puppies that have been set loose in the room, as well.) Maybe this is a cheap way to win over a room full of teenagers, but we never said we were above bribing them!

This is the end of my week and this post is already very long, so I’m going to cut it off now. I have writing to do for The Anti-Cruelty Society magazine next week, and it will otherwise still be a very busy one for us, but I will try to find time to write more about our preparation for the Youth-Led Badging program and orientation by next Friday.

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