At that time, SFU student, Saba Fatemi, was brought onboard to lead the program. Saba was a regular volunteer with the SFU Surrey - TD CEC and was known for her demonstrated capacity to provide safe, interactive and fun learning environments for program participants and volunteers. But she almost didn’t apply. “I don’t have that much media experience or teaching experience: there’s no way they’re gonna hire me,” she recounts. It wasn’t until the SFU Surrey - TD CEC pushed the deadline back due to low interest that she decided to take a chance. We’re really glad she did!
We met with Saba on Zoom to reflect on her experiences shaping and implementing the program. “My favourite thing was being blown away by the projects that the children were making. I had not expected a group of Grade 6 and Grade 7 students to produce such creative stories and animations – it just blew us away how perceptive, attentive to detail, and thoughtful they were about what they were making. It was really awesome to see their final products.”
When asked about her biggest takeaway, she reflected: “At first, I used to teach by addressing the children and giving them instructions, like a traditional classroom. It occurred to me, midway, that the SFU volunteers are an amazing resource I'm not tapping into, so I began addressing the volunteers instead. If the volunteers were clear about what they needed to do, they could better support the students they worked with. I empowered the volunteers, and they in turn, empowered the students.”
This layered, emergent relational model for the program helped build a space where everyone’s knowledge was respected, something that let the high school volunteers relax and find their confidence, and which echoed James Speidel’s reflections about multi-relational models. Not only did SFU volunteers and school-age participants find a unique benefit, but so did the high-school volunteers, in particular, the high school students who wouldn’t normally put their hand up, so to speak, for a leadership opportunity.
“We’re all learning here”, Saba recounts saying, “You don’t need to have the answers. If you don’t have the answers, don’t feel bad about it – you can even ask the children you’re working with, because they might know the answer, and that’s okay.”
As Meredith Verma had shared during our discussion with the Media Minds partners: “Providing spaces for kids to do things that are different is incredibly important. In the secondary schools, it’s often the students in the leadership or intensive career programs who get tapped to be volunteers and mentors. But the students who applied to be the volunteers in the Media Minds program were not those students – this program really fit a niche where students could go and be confident in a different way.”
Saba’s own world seemed to open up, too. Media Minds led her to start CommuniCreate with two of the volunteers she had worked with in Media Minds, which helped build her confidence in the online pedagogical space. “Everyone was getting Zoom fatigue – I was getting Zoom empowered”. This, in turn, led her to successfully apply for a digital literacy role with Burnaby Neighbourhood House, which she held while also working with Surrey-based, DIVERSEcity, a local nonprofit with deep connection to both the local community and to SFU through the SFU Surrey – TD CEC. Together, these two experiences inspired Saba to develop her own program teaching seniors how to lead online programs, themselves. “So it came full circle,” she says, “I didn’t really have to network, it was just something that happened as a result of the relationships that were built along the way."