Volunteer Spotlight: Summer Challenge Volunteers

JCPL's Volunteer of the Month for July 2023

Summer is often a time for relaxing, but JCPL's teen volunteers know that keeping your mind active year-round is crucial for both kids and adults. The Summer Challenge helps prevent "the summer slide" — learning loss over long school breaks for school-age kids and teens.

"The Summer Challenge helps encourage young people to read more and can help to introduce students that normally only have assigned readings to different books of their choosing," volunteer Justin says. "Reading is super cool, so the more people that enjoy it, the better."

Teen volunteers are an integral part of JCPL's Summer Challenge team. Every summer from June 1 to July 31, you can find our teen volunteers near the entrance of the Library, signing patrons up, helping them record hours and giving out prizes.

"Kids and adults are able to learn about the Summer Challenge from a human and what it is all about instead of reading it online," volunteer Athena says. "The Library doesn't have to hire more staff to get things done, and the volunteer service makes things easier on everyone."

JCPL serves an important role as a third place for teens — giving them a safe space to spend time that isn't home or school. Volunteering is also a great way for teens to feel connected to the Library, so they are more likely to continue to use the Library throughout the school year and learn more about the services JCPL offers. It also helps teens build job skills for the future and looks great on their resumes!

"The Summer Challenge teen volunteers are always the best part of our Summer Challenge. You will be hard-pressed to find a more hardworking, enthusiastic, capable and compassionate group of teens than those who volunteer their time and efforts," Meagan, teen librarian at Standley Lake, says. "Not only do the teens help their community by encouraging others to read, explore and engage with their Library, but they also develop lifelong skills that they can use when exploring educational and job opportunities in the future. It is so important for libraries to develop and nurture connections with our teen community as teens step into the beginnings of adulthood."

"My volunteer service not only helps the staff with the patrons in the Library, but it also helps the image of the Library and shows that there are so many ways to be involved in the Library besides reading, which is why we hold programs and events," volunteer Izzy says.

Volunteers also want to use their helpful presence in the Library to combat negative stereotypes about teens.

"I think the impact my volunteer service makes on the Library and my community is positive," Annabelle says. "It shows people that not only do teens like to read, but they can be friendly and hardworking as well, despite some of the stereotypes."

Yes, teens do still read and use the Library!

"The Library has honestly just been my little haven since I was really little," volunteer Sierra says. "I've always enjoyed being able to go to the Library and get books. My community and my family and friends all enjoy being able to just go to the Library and enjoy all it has to offer."

Volunteer Mia knows how essential JCPL is as a gathering space in her neighborhood.

"The Library is important to the community because it is an open source of hundreds of thousands of books that might otherwise be inaccessible to people," she says. "The Library is one of the only ways I and others have access to books. It also serves as a hub for meetups. Being able to use the quiet rooms for group study sessions is extremely helpful. Even if people are not going inside the Library, it is a safe place that everyone knows about where one can wait for pick up, carpool, etc."

Pragna and Ram are siblings who often volunteer together. They both know that the positive effect of volunteering is enormous!

"My volunteer service makes a huge impact because I get to help people in my community sign up for this great program. I love giving people their prizes. I'm happy that my volunteer work helps take some of the burden off the library staff," Ram says. 

Pragna adds, "My volunteer service helps people in my community who come into the Library to find out about the Summer Challenge, and I'm glad to be helping the librarians with any tasks they need done!"

Beyond giving back to the community, volunteering at the Library is fun!

"I enjoy seeing all the little kids' faces light up when you hand them a ticket to the aquarium or tell them they get a free book," Kate says.

Sierra loves the social aspect of volunteering. 

"I enjoy the people the most, it's amazing to work with the other volunteers, and I love talking to people," she says. "And, if I'm being honest, it's nice to be a part of running the reading program."

And our librarians are incredibly grateful for the work our teen volunteers do.

"This is my first year as teen librarian at Lakewood, and I am so impressed with our volunteers," Nicole says. "Beyond helping with the Summer Challenge, teen volunteers bring joy and energy into the branch! Staff truly enjoy getting to know them. I hope our teen volunteers know how much we value them and are grateful for their time. The school year can be a whirlwind, but we love to see them all throughout the year, whether it be in TAB, at our programs or stopping by to use the Library! I also hope they are enjoying their volunteer experiences and want to return next year. I'm really proud of the teen volunteers!"