This summer Wake County Public Libraries (WCPL), located in Raleigh, North Carolina, started a new teen internship program for older teens (grades 11-12) to assist in providing fun engaging learning opportunities for participants at selective USDA funded Summer Food Sites in partnership with Wake County Parks and Recreation . The funding from the YALSA Summer Learning Grant that is funded by Dollar General helped offset the costs of this program.

In our grant application, our initial goal was to hire two interns. However, once we started to review the program and interview candidates we decided to increase this number to five interns. All five interns were selected from WCPL’s Teen Leadership Corps that served the areas of some of our most vulnerable communities.

The teens were interviewed and hired in May. In early June, they received training, participated in leadership building skills and worked with four of our librarians to design the program they would deliver to the food site participants from mid-June to early August. The interns provided programs Monday through Thursday with oversight from our librarians and staff from the parks serving as food sites. On Fridays, members of the local Boys and Girls Club worked at the sites while our teens participated in debriefing meetings with the librarians, as well as skills building and enrichment opportunities to enhance their experience.

Activities included:

  • Managing money and finances with representatives from local financial institution BB&T.
  • Healthy living tips provided by the Poe Center for Health Education.
  • Taking the Gallup Strengthsfinder assessment and participating in associated team building exercises.
  • Developing cover letters and resumes and brainstorming how the experiences gained throughout the summer could translate to future jobs or college applications.

Over the summer the interns worked with 629 participants with an average of 30 children in attendance each day. They played educational games, lead craft activities, read stories, worked with Legos and more. In addition to building job and life skills, the experience allowed the teens to learn more about the diversity of  their communities and the members that live in them. They came to know the program participants as well as family members and care providers. Some of their takeaways based on survey feedback:

  • I learned communication is so important and there is no such thing as being bushy with it if it matters.
  • Coming up with a plan and sticking with it really works, until you’ve got to adapt and then stick to that.
  • I’ve learned that access to food for some and is a huge problem for kids who need food.
  • The internship provided me with more info and how to prepare for life as an adult

Perhaps the greatest example of the internship’s success is the answer to the question: Would you recommend the Thompson Fellowship Program to your peers?

Yes, 100% yes, Most definitely, I am not going to lie, –I already have, I would — but I also want to come back!

Elena Owens is a Library Experience Manager for Wake County Public Libraries (WCPL) located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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