By Wenhao Ma
Teenagers in the Middle Country school district are making a difference in their community.
The Middle Country Public Library in Centereach held a teen recognition ceremony on July 20 to honor teens who have been participating in community service programs at the library. More than 100 parents and teens attended the event.
Programs at the library include Book Buddies, Homework Pals, Math Buddies, Teen Book Reviewer, Battle of Books, Mutt Club, Organic Gardening and Teen Advisory Council.
“I think it’s important for teens to have an awareness of what’s going on in their communities, and different ways that they can make a difference and make their worlds a better place,” said Kristine Tanzi, the coordinator for teen services at the library. “So I think this really opens their eyes to not just potential career paths, but also ways they can give back.”
Tanzi said that the library has been having teen programs for a number of years, and is still developing new activities in response to the needs of community.
“We have been invited to attend different events that are happening, and provide teen volunteers,” Tanzi said.
Laura Powers, a youth service librarian, said that the library usually provides 15 to 20 programs each season to teen volunteers from 6th through 12th grade.
“They build bonds not only with each other, but with some of the kids that they’re working with. And also a bond with the library.”
— Laura Powers
Mutt Club is one of those programs. Animal lovers can sign up for the club to make a difference in a shelter animal’s life. Members of the club work on projects for local shelters and animal groups, go on tours and meet people in the field. Community service hours are also given for those who participate. Teen Book Reviewers review books from the most recent lists of award-winning books for Young Adults published by the American Library Association. Reviews will be displayed in the library, posted on the library’s teen webpage and teen Facebook. As part of Book Buddies, volunteers read stories to young children. Math Buddies help a younger buddy in kindergarten through 2nd grade practice math skills and assist them with math games and activities.
“They build bonds not only with each other, but with some of the kids that they’re working with,” Powers said. “And also a bond with the library.”
Every volunteer received a certificate from Tanzi and Powers that honors and recognizes their contributions to the community.
Kendyl Zayas, a 14-year-old going into Newfield High School this fall, said it’s important to get involved in the local programs.
“You [learn] how to work with kids and it’s good for the kids to know how to be with older kids,” she said. Kendyl is part of the Teen Advisory Council, where she and other volunteers help plan and implement big library and community events, and help kids experience new things by volunteering with other events. The students also help with the website and provide input on teen services.
Nikki Renelle, 13, also a member of the Teen Advisory Council, said that the program helped her meet new people and interact with kids in new ways.
Kendyl’s parents, who came with her to the ceremony, are supportive of what their daughter is doing.
“Giving back to the community I think is important,” said Kendyl’s father Hector. He said the programs have helped his daughter realize that sometimes people should lend a helping hand.
Ashley Kuzemchak, 14, who goes to Centereach High School, said that joining the Teen
Advisory Council and Book Buddies taught her how to deal with people, which she believes will help her in college. She said that everyone should participate in programs like these.
“I just want to say that you should start volunteering more because it’s a great experience,” she said. “I love it so much.”