As a Teen Services Coordinator in rural Oregon, I know that my teens face a unique set of challenges. Our town, The Dalles, is a small one, with a population of 15,000. And like many small towns with limited resources, our students are struggling. 65% of our middle schoolers and 45% of our high schoolers are eligible for free lunch. In 2014, 36% of our high school students did not graduate on time – one of the worst graduation rates in the entire state of Oregon. So my goal going when applying for YALSA’s Teen Tech Week Grant was simple: I wanted to create exciting, engaging programs that would get our teens thinking about their futures.
Teen Tech Week @ The Dalles-Wasco County Library
For Tinker Tuesday, we’ll be partnering with The Dalles High School’s competitive robotics team, The Bazinga Bots. The team will talk about what it’s like to build robots, participate in competitions, and discuss potential career opportunities. Afterwards, the teens will be able to “test drive” the competition robots, as well as build simple robots of their own.
For Wired-In Wednesday, we’ll be partnering with Hage Electric: a local company. They’ll be speaking with the teens about what it’s like to work as an electrician and what certifications they would need to pursue a career in the electrical field. Afterwards, the teens will be able to create “make and take” neon light signs for their rooms with electroluminescent wire.
We’ll be partnering with Red Wagon Antiques, a local antique store, to create a museum of “retro tech” for Throwback Thursday. We’ll have antique telephones, typewriters, cash registers, and the like on display, as well has a handout on the history of contemporary technology. We’re also hoping to partner with Gameopoly, a local vintage video game store, to set up some old-school video game stations for the teens to enjoy (e.g. Nintendo, Sega, etc).
For Fabrication Friday, we hope to partner with either The Dalles Iron Works, a local metal fabrication company, or the local community college’s welding instructors (depending upon their availability). The presenters will discuss what it’s like to be a metalworker, required certifications or degrees, and career opportunities. Afterwards, the teens will get to build their own “make and take” aluminum sculptures.
As part of our ArtPlace grant, we will be bringing in Portland-based artist, Cynthia Caudill, to lead an art workshop for Salvage Saturday. She’ll be helping our teens to make beautiful mandalas out of recycled CD’s.
Our hope is that these programs will help our teens make the connection between their passions and potential careers, thereby encouraging them to stay in school and get the training they need.
Megan Hoak is the Teen Services Coordinator at The Dalles-Wasco County Library in Oregon. She earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.