Dollar General Grant Winner: Baltimore County Public Library

For the second year, Baltimore County Public Library provided multiple, three-to-five-day Summer Teen Workshops all over the county. While we offered a total of 10 workshops, we were excited to receive the very generous YALSA and The Dollar General grant to be able to provide 3 teen workshops in three targeted communities in Baltimore County – North Point, Lansdowne, and Sollers Point. Each of the branches in these locations serve Title 1 schools, with a large percentage of low income households. We have identified these communities as most in need of resources. At Baltimore County Public Library, we have positioned ourselves to address as many of their needs as possible, by providing space, snacks and programming, but also by actively engaging with the families, building relationships with the youth as well as community members and organizations. We strive to meet their ever-changing and developing needs. With this grant we were able to provide teen’s access to learning new skills, interaction with caring adults, opportunities to engage with other teens and community, and the space to have fun outside of many of the hardships they may endure daily.

With the funds from the grant, we offered 2 Babysitting workshops as well as supplied teens attending the Drone workshop a free drone to build and take home. Since this was our second year offering workshops throughout the summer, we had last year’s input from teens and families about what types of workshops they would like to attend. We also learned from last year that many teens learned about the workshop from their parents or guardians. Parents were thrilled to have free workshops for this age group all summer long. While we still have 4 more workshops left this summer, our survey results so far show that 53% of the teens found out about the workshop from a parent/guardian. This is a big deal to us and shows the need to continue to encourage family engagement and communication when planning workshops for and with teens.

What did you like about the workshop? “I liked that you got to learn about drones and what they’re used for and also build a drone.”

Years ago, we offered babysitting certification classes and we would have long waitlists of interested teens as well as phone calls from parents hoping to register their teen. So we knew these workshops would be great. We were able to connect with Baltimore County 4H to provide the workshops and certification. The facilitator was engaging and down to earth. She provided the teens with every day skills in child care, including safety, food preparation, communicating with children and parents, etc. There was also space in the curriculum dedicated to the entrepreneurial aspect of starting your own babysitting business, which included creating a business plan, marketing, and how to speak to interested clients. They were a bubbly and playful group of teens, especially when they took turns role playing as “kids” and “responsible babysitter.”

What did you like about the program? “The fact that real drone companies will put in the effort to teach future drone users.”

The Drone workshop was offered at a smaller branch, at the bottom corner of our county. Many in the county do not even know the branch exists but it’s a beautifully, recently built branch, connected to a county recreation center. It is well loved and used by the local community members though. Six teens attended the workshop facilitated by Global Air Media. Not only did teens learn about how drones work and the future potential of drones, but they were able to build their own drone, which took time and dedication. Additionally, as part of the entrepreneurship section of the curriculum, the teens created business plans for a potential drone business. While working in groups they were instructed to come up with innovative ideas that could be used in a practical setting, allowing them to the opportunity to imagine and create innovative business ideas.

My personal goal for these workshops is to provide teen’s access to quality, educational and engaging experiences and opportunities. Each year, we see teens connecting with other teens, building trusting and professional relationships with facilitators, increasing their awareness of and skills in the workshop subject matter, and being creative and spontaneous — all in the safe space of the library meeting room over a three-to-five-day period. I hope to continue to work for and with library staff, families and teens to explore, learn, create and connect.

Tia Jennings is the Specialist of Youth and Family Engagement at the Baltimore County Public Library.

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