2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Reaching Underserved Youth through Teen Internship at Indian Prairie

As a district library, the Indian Prairie Public Library serves parts Darien, Burr Ridge, and Willowbrook, IL. One of the underserved areas in our district is known as Willowbrook Corner. In the summer, staff from the Kids & Teens department visit the Willowbrook Corner Summer Camp at Anne M. Jeans Elementary each week. We present activities to four different groups—approximately 72 kids, in grades K-5.

Our Teen Summer Intern, Carson Wagner, planned and presented the activities for the kids and led various staff members who took turns accompanying him on the visits. With Carson, the kids were able to plant seeds and learn about gardening, create Makey Makey banana pianos, play with a variety of musical instruments that the library circulates, make catapults, complete various art projects, and more. He taught them several cooperative group games, like Frogger, which he incorporated into his visits. On the last day, Carson delivered prize books. Each of the children received a new book to keep.

In addition to visiting Willowbrook Corner each week, this year, we coordinated a bus sharing opportunity with a neighboring school district, Gower Schools in District 62. This way, the library could use Gower’s summer school buses and drivers to pick up the kids from Anne M. Jeans in District 180, bring them to the library, and take them back to their summer camp. We did this because we know that transportation is a limiting factor for many families who are not able to get to the library. We want to test and try new ways to reach these kids and their families.

Carson planned activities for the kids when they visited the library. Kids were able to play games on the Nintendo Switch, use computers and tablets, create and sew in the makerspace called the WouldShop, make buttons, play with puppets, read, see their own artwork in the Prairie Patch (our community garden) and so much more. We received a lot of positive feedback and hugs from the children when they visited. We heard comments like, “This is where I’m going to work when I grow up,” and “Wow, I’m going to need at least three days to do everything I want in here.”

The Teen Summer Intern position was made possible through the grant received by YALSA and Dollar General. We are thankful for the opportunities that we’ve had because of this grant. We believe that our community, particularly the children who live in Willowbrook Corner, benefited from Carson’s work. We also believe that the experience was advantageous for Carson, who gained experience interviewing, training, and working in the library.

Natalie Williams is Head of Youth Services for Indian Prairie Public Library District.

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