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Youth Media Still Matters: Elevating the Voices and Identities of Young People in Disruptive Times

July 25, 2022

When schools, colleges and youth organizations shut down en masse in March 2020 in response to the emerging pandemic, none of us had any idea what lay ahead. Amid all the uncertainty, one thing quickly became clear: With opportunities to meet in person sharply curtailed, teens and young adults needed new outlets to connect, collaborate and find their creative voice more than ever.Using Zoom and other digital platforms, Spy Hop mentors delivered instruction remotely and students collaborated virtually on projects and performances. While the experience wasn't always the same, Spy Hop programming was able to reach a larger group of students who were no longer limited from participating by their geography.Through surveys, interviews and focus groups with Spy Hop mentors and students, we have assembled a comprehensive picture of the outcomes from Spy Hop programming in 2020 and 2021. In the course of our evaluation, we have found that Spy Hop continues to play an invaluable role in youth development and media skills.While Spy Hop programming continues to have indelible and far-reaching effects on youth participants in Utah and beyond, we believe the organization can deepen its impact even further by following a few suggestions. These include supporting youth employment opportunities beyond high school, broadening access to Spy Hop for students with fewer resources and being more intentional about mentor development.

We are Spy Hop: Showing Up During COVID-19

June 17, 2020

During COVID-19, Spy Hop, a Utah-based youth media organization, effectively engaged several hundred young people in media arts education locally and nationally by swiftly pivoting to a bold experimental virtual approach. This ethnography conducted by Convergence Design Lab reports that while many youth-service organizations furloughed staff and paused operations during COVID-19, Spy Hop adapted to quickly deliver virtual programs to a geographically and age diverse population of youth.The report is a 16 page chronicle that vividly describes the challenges and decision-making process that occurred at Spy Hop between late March and early June 2020. The report finds that Spy Hop succeeded as a direct result of its facility with three particular organizational behaviors and that these behaviors shed light on what collective resilience looks like in action. Specifically, Convergence Design Lab observed Spy Hop:

The Work Speaks for Itself: Understanding the Impact of Youth Media

April 27, 2020

YOUTH WHO TAKE PART IN SPY HOP'S CORE AFTER-SCHOOL CLASSES LEARN DEEPLY. Students push themselves creatively and learn increasingly sophisticated skills in video, audio and music production. In the process, they gain confidence in their abilities and develop identities as creative artists. Spy Hop participants also learn in ways that go well beyond their mastery of a craft. They learn to work as part of a team to solve problems. They learn to think critically and assess their creative choices. They discover that they have a strong voice in their community.These additional skills and insights prepare students for success in whatever career field they choose. What's more, their Spy Hop experience empowers students to become more effective citizens. Youth who complete Spy Hop programming are well positioned to navigate a world of "fake news" and are more civically engaged than their peers.

We Choose to Be Here: Spy Hop's 2016-2017 Evaluation Report

March 30, 2018

Youth who take part in Spy Hop's core programs in video, audio, and music production and design benefit from access to professional-grade facilities and technology. With the support of mentors who are professionals in their chosen discipline, Spy Hop youth collaborate with their peers to produce high-quality media works for authentic audiences. In the process, they learn critical skills that prepare them for college and careers. But just as importantly, they develop meaningful relationships with each other and with caring adults — and they learn how to become engaged and empowered citizens in their communities. They discover that they have a voice in shaping public attitudes and opinions.Spy Hop's programs have a tremendous impact on the youth who take part in them, but also the community as a whole. In our study of Spy Hop's core programs during 2016-17, Convergence Design Lab observed that youth participants became more adept at thinking creatively and expressing themselves through media arts. They gained future-ready skills such as communication, collaboration, problem solving, and planning for success. And they developed meaningful, cross-cultural connections. What's more, as Spy Hop participants amplified their voices through digital media creation, audiences gained new perspectives they didn't have before. The entirecommunity benefited from the civic engagement of Spy Hop youth. These outcomes can be traced back to Spy Hop's exemplary approach to youth development, called the Spy Hop Way — as we will detail in the pages that follow.