Pathfinders Leizel Jackson and Megan Maloy: Teen Mentors!

Pathfinder is a series of blogs about intrepid library staff who are leading interesting programs that you may not yet know about.

Teen librarians Leizel Jackson and Megan Maloy both are very passionate about their work with teenagers.

Leizel’s interests are varied and include cooking, gardening, the NBA, young adult novels, and travel.  In particular, she spent many years abroad in Japan, which is the home of the popular art forms manga and anime.  One of the most popular reading materials in the Teen Room at the library is Japanese manga.  Many teens enjoy reading manga and watching anime, which creates an instant connection with teens.  Her knowledge of young adult literature and her background in Japanese culture makes her uniquely relatable to teens who share these common interests.

In addition, Leizel feels that her experience as an expatriate living abroad gives her a unique perspective in “relating to our customers, since so many of our customers are immigrants.”

Megan Maloy has “been at TeenHQ for two and a half years and has a passion for YA literature, civic engagement, and connecting teens with books and resources that fuel their passion.”  TeenHQ is the hub for teen-centric materials and activities at the King Library.

Megan spearheaded the SJ Engage program, which empowers young adults ages thirteen through twenty-four to learn about a civic subject and act upon that knowledge.  The following topics are covered: Global Climate Change, Gun Violence in the United States, Homelessness and Poverty, Immigration in the United States, and Mental Health.  These are all topics that have affected this particular generation the most adversely.  Interested volunteers sign up as an SJ Engage Ambassador, complete one of the courses, and respond.  This is an excellent way for teenagers to receive virtual volunteer hours, if they are civic-minded.

Are there any other virtual volunteer opportunities for teens at the library?  During the past summer, Megan and Leizel provided an excellent virtual opportunity!

Sparse Teen Volunteer Opportunities in the Age of COVID-19

It has been difficult finding volunteer opportunities during the age of COVID-19, if you are a teen or young adult.  Most opportunities are now virtual.

Normally, during the summer, many teenagers find cool and safe spaces and many volunteer opportunities at the library.  In addition to the usual teen volunteer opportunities of being a library services volunteer or a reading buddy or a coding instructor, the summer affords the opportunity to be a Summer Learning Ambassador.  Eager teens can find a way to pass on their own love of literacy to younger children during the summer.

Neither cool spaces nor Summer Learning Ambassador volunteer positions were available during the summer of COVID-19.  The library was able to provide volunteer virtual programs like coding, crafting, and entertainment programs, but none of the traditional in-person volunteer positions.

The lack of physical work spaces also meant that it was difficult to provide safe work spaces for our traditional summer teen workers from Work2Future.  Partnering with Work2Future and the City of San Jose’s Parks and Recreation Department, provides the library with paid student workers during the summer months

Work2Future teens are directed to organizations like the library in order to provide work experience that will help them jumpstart their resumes.

As such, Megan and Leizel had to find a creative way to provide their twenty Work2Future teens a way to work in the restrictive COVID-19 working world.

The Summer Work Experience at the Library

Leizel and Megan accomplished their goal of providing a great work experience as follows:

  • Students told their stories with video while also learning about civic issues and library resources.
  • Finding a virtual workspace was difficult.  Megan and Leizel chose to use classroom software as their platform, because they knew teens were familiar with the learning management systems due to the pandemic.
  • Leizel and Megan incorporated fun activities to engage the teens like a break room, where they would post, “the fun fact of the day.”  This was created to encourage the social element that one would find in a physical work environment.
  • Storytelling experience:  Utilized Khan Academy’s Pixar Storytelling to teach storytelling techniques.
  • Civic engagement:  The Black Lives Matter movement sparked an avalanche of interest in civics.  The SJ Engage program provided ways to learn about various civic topics.
  • Video editing:  The library has many resources to help anyone who is learning how to use technology, like
  • The teens finished their work experience with a final project:  create a video tutorial or mini-documentary about their neighborhood.

Skills and Goals

Megan and Leizel taught valuable skills during the summer:

  • How to use hotspots and tablets
  • Video creation and editing
  • Civic engagement
  • Evaluation of resources
  • Respectful sharing of opinions

Megan explains, “learning soft skills is needed in this new digital workplace, such as video meeting and email etiquette, as well as how to present themselves in a virtual space.”

In addition, teens should develop the 4C skills:

  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration

“In the 21st Century, everyone must have information and media literacy skills for college and work”, according to Leizel.

Leizel’s and Megan’s goal was to “create a job experience that was fun, but would also teach valuable skills,” which the students achieved.

The teens were especially grateful for their summer opportunity.  Teens commented about the program: “I learned how to record and edit videos!” and “I’ve learned to be more responsible with my time.”

If you are interested, be sure to check out the Work2Future website, under “Programs for Young Adults.”