Art has always been an outlet for Gabby Ulett to express herself.
So when the Best Buy Teen Tech Center® in St. Louis offered a digital art class, she signed right up. She learned how to use digital tools and about the types of careers possible in the creative field.
“Before, I felt like I couldn’t make a career of my art — I was doubting myself,” she said. “But now I know I’ve got to do it, whether it’s selling my artwork or owning a tattoo shop. I’m open to the possibilities.”
Recently, Gabby was able to see her work come to life through a contest with Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Co. The local company was holding an artwork contest for its newest blend, Great Futures, and selected Gabby’s submission, “Seasons,” as the winner.
“I was shocked,” she said. “I couldn’t believe my art was going to be on coffee for other people to see.”
Music to accompany art
Once Gabby’s artwork was chosen, her peers knew they could help promote the blend using skills they had developed at the Teen Tech Center’s professional-grade recording studio.
“They were ready to make [this partnership] even better and got to work right away,” said Angel Jackson, who oversees the Teen Tech Center located at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis – Herbert Hoover Club.
Students worked together in groups to record and edit background tracks for the coffee blend’s jingle using the equipment at the Teen Tech Center, sponsored by Premium Retail. Then, they shared their final recording with Kaldi’s marketing teams to be incorporated into a full video to promote the coffee line.
The coffee blend became available on Kaldi’s website in 2021, and all profits benefit the Boys & Girls Club.
“This partnership is a way we [Kaldi’s] can be part of the great work the Boys & Girls Club of Greater St. Louis are doing,” said Frank McGinty, Kaldi’s director of marketing. “It was a seamless fit to use the coffee to raise the money for them.”
Laying the background tracks for success
Teen Tech Centers are safe, after-school learning environments equipped with cutting-edge technology where students can explore such areas as robotics, photography, music and film production, and more. Participating youth learn new skills, nurture positive adult and peer relationships, and prepare for the careers of the future.
One of the most popular programs among the students at the St. Louis location is a music class where youth can experiment recording and editing their own tracks.
“We have the tech that they don’t get at schools or other after-school programs,” Angel said.
“They can work with top-of-the-line equipment and experiment with what interests them.”
Honesty Spight, a seventh grader, developed a passion for recording music since she began coming to the Teen Tech Center a year ago. So, when the students decided to create a background track for the coffee ad, she was excited to start the project.
“Working together is easier when you have a group to have someone recording, someone edit the music and then someone else put the soundtrack together,” she said.
One project with a lifetime impact
This is exactly the type of excitement Angel likes to see from the youth who come to the Teen Tech Center. She says this experience with Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Co. showed the students how the skills they’ve learned can be applied — and make a difference — in the real world.
“They got to see that everything they learn or do [at the Teen Tech Center] can mean something,” she said. “It gave them that enthusiasm and a sense of respect and dignity to feel that people see the work that they’re doing.”
Honesty said she loves that something she worked on is visible to other people and she’s proud to see it come to life.
“The [Teen Tech Center] teaches me skills like singing, how to record things and how to work with the technology,” she said. “It helps me feel like I can do anything.”
For Gabby, this entire experience has been the affirmation she needed to know she’s on the right track pursuing her passion and turning it into a career.
“It made me see I can get out there and do big things,” Gabby said. “It inspired me to make more art and just put myself out there.”
You can watch the jingle and purchase the Great Futures Blend to support the youth at the Teen Tech Center here.