November Volunteers of the Month: Molly Gibson and Jamie Kwasnieski
Recently, YSP launched its new website, prompted mainly by feedback received at the 20th Anniversary celebration, including insightful comments from many of the day's renowned speakers. Both conceptually and technologically different, the current version now has a greater focus on the student-run aspect of YSP to better promote the group – as suggested by Dr. Bruce Alberts – and has become easier to run and more compatible with Internet browsers. Molly Gibson and Jamie Kwasnieski are two YSP volunteers who rose to the challenge of designing and launching the new website. It seems Molly and Jamie were perfect for this task, as both have experience with computer science and were excited by the creative outlet this web design project would provide.
From their initial ideas to the actual launch date, approximately 3 months were invested in the website. Jamie credits Albert Mao, who created YSP's previous website, for the original structure and content that made her and Molly's lives much easier since it provided a foundation to build on. That being said, significant time and effort were put in to thoroughly consider the direction to take in order to make the site better. For instance, a priority of the new version was to make it easy for all target audiences of YSP – namely students, teachers, and volunteers – to access information. Thus, Molly and Jamie decided to integrate sliding pictures on the main page for visitors to find the information they need. Ease of access was also increased by building the website from a web template found at OSTemplates.com that allows all browsers to support the site. Additionally, the website has become a lot more interactive, with pictures of volunteers and quotes featured on the sides of the pages as well as links to Facebook and YouTube on the top. These features allow viewers to read what the student director has to say or listen to the history of YSP from one of its founders and thus truly understand and appreciate that YSP is a volunteer-run group. This emphasis on the student-run aspect is Molly's favorite part of the new website. "The passion of the volunteers is truly what makes an organization like YSP so successful," she says.
Moving forward, Jamie reveals that she and Molly are working on an additional feature of the website that specifically targets teachers in the St. Louis Public Schools system. "I am excited about this idea, because I think it will help YSP engage new teachers, thus becoming a more effective organization," Molly says. Currently, both Jamie and Molly maintain the website. They have cleverly designed it so that updating it is easy and effortless. For instance, the News and Events page is actually a feed from the blog. When other people in the future take on the responsibilities of site maintenance, Jamie and Molly have set up an efficient system for a seamless transition!