Arlington Library and Schools Partner for Senior Experience
Washington-Lee High School seniors Kyle Chipman and Emma Troy spent the last three weeks of their high school career supporting a critical Library outreach activity – helping Central Library’s Youth Services librarians prepare for Summer Reading.
Washington-Lee’s Senior Experience program encourages graduating teens to spend at least 75 hours in volunteer, employment, internship, or special project activities at the end of the school year, as a way to explore the “real-world” work environment. Seniors work under a contract, established with a mentor who has agreed to share his or her wisdom, experience, and talents. For Kyle and Emma, this mentor was “Ms. Mariela” Aguilar, Youth Services Librarian at Central.
Mariela noted that Senior Experience participants are considered full members of the Library team.
As with any other employee or volunteer, they are expected to meet their work obligations by: arriving on time for their scheduled shifts, checking in with Library staff, completing their assignments accurately and efficiently, logging their hours, and in the case of an emergency that precludes coming to work, notifying their mentor in a timely manner. If they do not complete their end of the signed “contract,” their Senior Experience is terminated and they are sent back to school for the remainder of the term.
The Library’s Summer Reading program, which helps kids of all ages maintain reading proficiency over the summer break, is a complex undertaking. A theme is chosen, supporting materials are developed, printed, and organized for all age groups, special guests are identified and scheduled, and prizes are obtained. Then the Summer Reading communications blitz begins, with librarians giving talks at each school to introduce the program to all Arlington County schoolchildren, and decorations going up in each of the Library’s locations. Finally in early June, babies, kids and teens sign up for Summer Reading – and then the fun really begins!
Without our Summer Experience volunteers, Mariela says that Central Library would have had a much harder time getting ready for Summer Reading.
“We turned Emma and Kyle loose to set up Summer Reading at Central, and they did a wonderful job.” Mariela also noted that Emma, who will be studying art at Virginia Commonwealth University, developed beautiful posters and window decorations reflecting this year’s theme of “STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math).” And Kyle, demonstrating the logical mind of the math major he will be at Vanderbilt, did a great job organizing the materials needed by kids of all ages, at all library locations. In fact, Kyle and Emma were so efficient that Youth Services loaned them to the Materials Management department, to support some of their special projects.
Kyle and Emma welcomed being in a professional work environment, “but in a comfortable setting,” and seeing firsthand the behaviors required for professional success.
They also appreciated being given responsibility to get the job done, with a minimum of direction. And they learned “how much behind-the-scenes work goes into making a good library experience”…something they saw first-hand while supporting Summer Reading. Emma and Kyle highly recommend the Arlington Public Library System as a Senior Experience placement opportunity.
Both Washington-Lee and Yorktown High Schools offer Senior Experience programs, and both Central Library and the Westover Branch Library have hosted participants. If you are a graduating senior and are interested in participating in the program, please contact your school’s Senior Experience Coordinator for more information. If you are interested in volunteering in the Arlington Public Library System for your Senior Experience, please contact a librarian in early April; the Library would love to have you.
Reporting by Mariela Aguilar, Youth Services Librarian, and Laura West, Library volunteer