Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 16/8/2016 (1329 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While many teens use their two months of summer vacation to catch up on their favourite video games or binge-watch seasons of TV shows, the 10 members of the Get Out of the Basement team are doing exactly the opposite.
Get Out of the Basement is an initiative that encourages young people to get outside and see what the province has to offer. Each year, a group of teens post about their adventures on social media (#GOOTB) and on their website. So far this summer, they have been to Oak Hammock Marsh, the Carman Country Fair and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. They took in parts of Aboriginal Music Week, the Gimli Film Festival, Interstellar Rodeo and went catfishing in Lockport, among dozens of other activities.
This is the third installation of the project initiated by McKim Communications, a local advertising and marketing company. The program began because McKim’s president and CEO, Peter George, was looking for a way to get his own son out of the basement. Initially, just four teens were involved in the program that lasted only a few weeks, but in three years, it has expanded to include as many as 12 students and now runs the entire summer.
"The motivation is two-fold," says Jordan Power, McKim’s strategic services manager, who also helps run Get Out of the Basement. "It’s first a manifestation of McKim’s commitment to this industry, to training and getting young people interested in advertising, promotions and social media and all that. But it’s also a business decision to do something where our agency could put into practice and get some experience doing things on social media and in the digital space, and where we can kind of experiment a bit and try out some new things and take that learning and that model and apply those to our regular client work."
On the day the Free Press visited, five of the 10 teenagers were in their workspace in the Crocus Building downtown, tackling various projects from video editing to blog writing to researching their next activity — a trip to the Urban Shaman Gallery later that afternoon.
They all say it’s the perfect first job to have — and it certainly is a job. They work full-time hours, they have clients whose strategies they have to fulfil and they get paid.
"It’s a great experience working with people my own age and it’s definitely the best first job you could ever have as a teen," says Sam Sawchuk, 15, who is spending his third summer with Get Out of the Basement.
The students, aged 14-18, also learn the important skills of collaboration and time management, as well as how to build and curate a strong, engaged social-media following — a valuable ability for a young person hoping to one day make a career in any media-based field.
"It’s skills that transfer beyond this industry," says Power. "I would be confident to say that at a job flipping burgers or scooping ice cream like I would have had, this is a different skill set that you’re not getting at a lot of those other jobs, so it’s a cool opportunity to have this chance, whatever they end up doing after."
"The collaboration has been really good. I worked here last year too. It’s a little bit different, because we have a smaller group, but we all work very well together," says Mackenzie Medeiros, 16, who also got her younger sister, Jordan, involved. "We’re a unique group of people and everyone offers something different."
In the early afternoon, it’s time for their trip to the gallery; once there, they walk the loop of the single room, looking carefully at the photos hung on the walls as part of the Voice From Point Douglas exhibit, snapping pictures of the art and of each other. While some activities require video work or a blog post, today, it’s all about social-media posts — before some had even finished their first loop around, others had already posted to Instagram and Twitter, letting their hundreds of followers know where they were and what they saw.
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Social media is a large part of Get Out of the Basement’s success — the increase in engagement has been steady from year to year; from a few hundred people viewing videos and liking posts in 2015 to thousands absorbing their content this summer. One of their videos, a fun Q&A with people in Assiniboine Park, is creeping toward 7,000 views on Facebook.
"In terms of engagement, I think this year it is on par with the regular client work that we do in terms of reaching out through social media, so it’s sort of become something substantial within the province, which is really cool," says Power.
Putting aside the business and educational aspects, for 18-year-old Ryan Steel, Get Out of the Basement serves an important, bare-bones purpose for the youth of Winnipeg: it shows them their city "doesn’t suck."
"I think Winnipeg is so pessimistic. One thing I think every Winnipegger has in common is that we all kind of hate Winnipeg, and I think it’s really good, especially for younger people, to see how awesome Winnipeg is and that it doesn’t suck. There’s lots of stuff to do," he says.
"It’s very comparable to lots of bigger cities — I don’t know if you could go catfishing and catch 39-inch catfish in Toronto, but you can do that here. Especially since we went out to so many rural things, that’s something that Manitoba really has going for it, and I hope through Get Out of the Basement, we really inspire some kids to stop hating Winnipeg so much."
Erin Lebar Multimedia producer
Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.
Teens in grades 9-12 interested in joining in on Get Out of the Basement next summer can apply online in the spring at getoutofthebasement.com.
From the program managers:
“What we’re looking for is not necessarily the best writers or the best filmmakers or the best of the best that we can find, but people who are fun and people you might want to hang out with when you see them on social media, people who have different perspectives, different walks of life. That’s really important.”
— Jordan Power, manager of strategic services at McKim
“We don’t need people who are great at everything because this is also an opportunity to learn throughout the summer.”