For me, my focus on helping teens transition from high school to adulthood began during the recession. I was working the help desk and there was a customer who was trying to complete the FAFSA on a paid website. I redirected them to FAFSA.ed.gov, but a few days later there was another customer who was doing a similar thing, only they had paid $80 for someone to fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
It may be the beginning of the school year, but one of my focuses this year is partnering with other organizations to ensure that accurate information gets to students and recent grads about college and alternatives to college.
We’ve divided our focus in two parts. In the fall we focus on promoting the services the library offers to prospective college students, while hosting SAT/ACT Practice Tests, and Finding $ for College Nights at the library.
I’ve found that most parents and students aren’t even aware that the public library often has study guides, scholarship listings, and college ranking guides that they can use to help decide where they want to go to school. We worked with Sylvan, Princeton Review, and Kaplan who host the Practice Tests and other information sessions. Library staff handout a targeted flyer to students who show up for the events that promotes our collections and e-sources related to college.
For our Finding $ for College programs we started with resources from the Department of Education. They offer a Financial Aid Toolkit and training for anyone who works with students and wants to share accurate information about paying for college. We created a library program that highlights FAFSA and scholarships, and explains the various ways to pay for a college education. We partner with local community colleges, who send a Financial Aid Advisor to answer parents specific questions. It has been very successful.
Last year we made a decision that as a public library we wanted to also emphasize that there are other valuable career choices if college isn’t the right fit for you. This past spring we worked with Labor & Industries to highlight apprenticeship programs available in the community, and invited members of these fields to talk to students about these career paths.
While we can only offer limited workshops to help recent grads with important skills like interviewing, resume writing, and professional appearance, we have partnered with a local organization that focuses on helping 16-24 year olds with their first job. We are also working on creating a targeted flyer that highlights the library’s print and electronic resources that help recent graduates make the transition. Recently I requested Soft Skills for Workplace Success from the Department of Labor, in hopes we might be able to create a successful program for this spring.
Lastly we have worked with credit unions and banks to offer financial literacy programs. Buying Your First Car has been a huge success, while Credit 101 has also been beneficial in our community. These programs are offered for free. Some branches have also used the free resources available from the Department of Treasury to help teens learn about being smart with their money.
Working with our Adult Services team has been invaluable as we develop and promote these programs. We also work with local schools to support their programs while filling in topics they aren’t able to teach their students.
What I’ve learned is that there are several free resources in our community and through various federal government programs. Working together as a team has made these programs easy to organize. They promote library services, while also supporting our communities. Initially our goal was to help teens see that the library has more to offer students than just databases that help them complete their research assignments for school. Now the library is a valuable link to help teens transition into adulthood, giving them information to make informed citizens and be better members of the local community.
I encourage you to see what resources are available near you and create partnerships with other departments in your library, local schools, and other organizations in your community.
My favorite part about all these programs has been going to fairs telling young adults about all the services we offer and seeing them get excited about basic things like checking out DVDs, Music CDs, and Books to entertain themselves while also getting support to gain independence and their first job.