Youth Services Librarian, Laurel Public Library
“If it were not for the educators recognizing my potential, investing in me, and cheering me on, I might have given up.”
Education has played a tremendous role in my life. As a young person, I was confronted with many challenges. My father was, at the time, addicted to drugs and alcohol. There were several times during my middle and high school years that I was homeless. In fact, I attended four Delaware high schools during this tumultuous time. As you can imagine, this had a big impact on me during this critical time in my life. After living in a homeless, shelter for about three months, we were able to find housing in Brookmont Farms. Fortunately, within months of moving there, construction began on the Greater Newark Boys and Girls Club. This community organization was able to continue programming and support after-school. I started volunteering, which led to a summer position. I became the first Youth of the Year for the Greater Newark Boys and Girls Club and eventually, the Delaware State Youth of the Year. Because of these organizations, I was able to excel as I was struggling through serious family challenges.
We may not be able to make an impact on the entire world but we can impact our world. The challenges facing young people today are greater than they have ever been. It wasn’t the heroic act of one person that helped me. It was the consistent, small acts of many. I would encourage others to get involved in the lives of young people and be the one of many.
The library provides a safe place to learn, explore, collaborate, and ask questions. Laurel is a rural, low-income community. 71% of students in the Laurel School District receive free or reduced lunches. We have a large population of English Learners who struggle trying to keep up in school as they learn English. Our students face daily struggles: socially, economically, and academically. I created a program, “Get Your M.E.S.S. On!” an interactive program that encourages creation, independence, problems solving, and critical thinking through M.E.S.S (math, engineering, science, and social learning). This STEM program provided students (ages 8-12) an open workshop to explore and create using motors, LED lights, Makey Makeys, and Scratch Programming. Additionally, I wanted to bring music and technology into the library. Working with the Laurel Ruritans, we were able to secure funding for a digital media lab. Students have access to laptops, microphones, an audio mixer, instruments, cameras, and camcorders. They are able to explore, create, and record their projects.
The potential of these projects is limitless. These programs have brought together children of all backgrounds, income levels, learning levels and cultures. The library has provided the students an opportunity to embrace 21st century learning and technology, and collaborate and learn with a diverse group of their peers.