Volunteer Spotlight: Maya, Belmar Library

JCPL's Volunteer of the Month for March 2024

"It's hard to put into words just how special Maya is to me and the Belmar Library staff," JCPL teen librarian Jayna says. "Maya is one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers we have at Belmar Library."

Maya moved to Jefferson County a few years ago and immediately missed having a strong peer group around her. All her close friends were far away, and since Maya was homeschooled, it was hard to break into new groups of friends. In her old neighborhood, Maya could climb over the fence to her friends' houses. But that type of community wasn't here for her in this new home.

Then Maya met Jayna and some friendly Teen Advisory Board (TAB) members at a Summer Challenge kickoff party, and everything started to change!

"I was really nervous for the first 30 minutes," Maya admits. "I felt a lot of social anxiety because of the pandemic, and I would have panic attacks around large groups of people."

Those fears started to subside as she got to know some of the other teens at the party, and by the end of the event, she had decided to join the volunteer team for the summer. She always really liked hanging out at JCPL, so why not? 

Now, only a year and a half later, Maya is one of the most active teen volunteers in Jefferson County. In addition to volunteering for Summer Challenge, she plans events and programs on two separate TABs, picks up extra volunteer shifts twice a week and always jumps in to participate in extra activities like events and trivia.  

"I think volunteering is really fun, and you really get a community," Maya says.

It's almost impossible for Maya to pick her favorite event she's helped plan, but a few that stick out are the Pride movie nights, Winter Cozy Camp, laser tag and a "Princess Bride" murder mystery night (she reserved her favorite character, Inigo Montoya, months in advance).  

When asked to share something interesting or cool Maya has done for JCPL, teen librarian Tori says: "There's a million things to pick. Maya is simply the best. She is kind, funny and always engaged in any task given to her. Maya is more responsible and engaged than most adults I meet."

The impact of Maya's volunteer service is huge. The creative input and hard work of TAB allows JCPL to host over 100 teen events a year. Collaboration from teen volunteers ensures that the events are fun and interesting for teens and helps build a strong community since some of the teens know each other and can act as a welcoming committee for newbies. 

Volunteering has also benefited Maya — she's built strong friendships with her fellow TAB members and has become more comfortable with navigating large groups. Win-win!

"She is a leader in Belmar's Teen Advisory Board, always coming up with new and fun things to bring more teens into the Library, focusing on inclusivity for all teens," Jayna says. "She brings a passion for reading that is contagious and that she shares with staff and other teens with gusto."

It probably comes as no surprise that as a library advocate, Maya is also an avid writer. She has written four different young adult fantasy books as part of a collaborative group where each member writes chapters from one character's perspective. She's also working on some independent projects and has found her writing style has already evolved and improved from her early works.

Maya reads frequently — generally fiction, especially queer contemporary books. One of her favorite authors is Marissa Meyer (if you want to check out one of her books, Maya recommends "Heartless," a captivating Queen of Hearts origin story). She always enjoys getting recommendations from the librarians at her location as well, and she shares her recent reads on her blog, Reign of Readers, opens a new window. Check it out if you need some inspiration for your next favorite!

"Maya is a pure joy to be around," Jayna says. "The Belmar Library is a better place because she chose to give us her time and talents through volunteering."

We are so appreciative of Maya's dedication, kindness and commitment to JCPL's mission. Thank you, Maya!!