Summer Teen Internship @ Laurel Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

We were fortunate enough to receive one of the 2016 YALSA Symposium Awards to implement a Summer Teen Internship. Thanks to YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, we were able to successfully design and fund our program. We already have a very well established and recognized teen volunteer group, so this was a positive next step for us.

To be considered for an internship for the summer of 2017, teens were required to attend a mentoring program offered by a local community leader. Initially a fifteen-week program, the facilitator was able to design an eight-week program for the thirteen teens who signed up. Over the course of eight weeks, the teens learned many skills such as life skills, leadership skills, personal presentation, and public speaking. Guest speakers from the community were also brought in and the class concluded with each teen doing a videotaped presentation.

Upon completion of the mentor program, the teens could then apply for an internship position, where they would design and run their own program for the Youth Services Department. All applicants had to be a member of our Teen Ambassador Program and fill out an application and submit a short essay about the benefits that might be gained in a mentorship program by a mentee, mentor and community. After reviewing the applications and essays, we then scheduled interviews with the teens. The interviews covered their availability, their expectations, and how they saw their potential program running. After the interviews, we also got input from the facilitator of the mentor program and after which we selected five interns.

After their selection, we then held several meetings to finalize their programs, discuss budgets, time management and scheduling, and further expectations. Every intern was tasked with creating a supply list while working within their budget, creating a syllabus to cover their eight-week program, and working with us to create publicity material. One of the interns worked as a Youth Services Assistant while the other four held their own programs. One intern planned and carried out Story Times, another had a Comic Design Program, another did a Recycled Mini-House Program and one did a Basics of Photography and Videography Program for teens. All programs were very well attended and several had waiting lists. Every week the interns would evaluate their syllabuses and re-work anything that needed tweaking.

At the end of the eight weeks, we held a reception to recognize the interns and to showcase the work done by attendees of their programs. Families and members of the community gathered to see their displays and helped us to recognize the intern’s accomplishments. At the reception, the interns were given their certificates and received their stipends.

This was a very successful program for our library and our community and one we look forward to doing again. All the feedback we received was very positive, from the families and participants to the interns themselves and their families. The impact on the interns and our community was significant. In a community with one of the highest poverty rates in the state, we need programs like this to help propel our youth onto future success. By challenging them and giving them the skills they need to succeed and the confidence to step out, we are developing the future leaders that our community needs. If they are invested in our community as a teen, they will be invested as successful adults. It has been amazing to watch these teens really challenge themselves and step out of their comfort zones to successfully take on a task they never considered doing.

Gail Bruce is the Youth Services Librarian at the Laurel Public Library in Laurel, DE.

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