Teen Interns Gain Career Skills Through Internships Toward Equity Program
A 2016 Madison Public Library Foundation grant allowed three young community members to participate in immersive internships with Madison Public Library in areas of interest to them.
The project, called Internships Toward Equity, collaborated with Centro Hispano’s Escalera program, YWCA’s YWeb Career Academy, and the City of Madison’s AASPIRE program to host Alan Morales, Zora Beach and Catherine (Lexi) Gee, respectively, throughout the year. Each intern earned a stipend, $10,200 of which was provided by the foundation.
Each internship not only allowed participants to gain meaningful work experience in areas of interest to them, but also gave the library a chance to develop deeper relationships with the partner agencies, and to learn from the interns about their communities and work experiences.
The interns developed professional skills, contributed to program and service development, and became de facto ambassadors for the library as a result of their positive experiences.
Morales, a West High School student who wants to own his own business, worked 10 to 15 hours per week throughout the summer; assisted with children’s events and storytimes in the library; and created booklists and displays for Central Library’s children’s with topics of social justice and racial equity. He also helped with youth-related communications and the library’s Spanish language Facebook page.
Throughout his experience, Morales said he most enjoyed working with Youth Services Manager Tammy Pineda.
“This internship means a lot to me because with Tammy, she opened many doors for me and got me involved with many wonderful organizations and activities in Madison,” Morales said. “Now, thanks to her, I’m very involved with many different people in Madison. This is something I will always be grateful for.”
Gee, a student at UW-Madison, worked full time for eight weeks over the summer with Pinney Library Manager Sarah Lawton on community engagement and the Tell Us project. Assisting at large youth events in several libraries, organizing and implementing youth events at Pinney, and serving as a mentor and colleague for a younger Wanda Fullmore high school intern, Gee gained a plethora of useful experiences.
“This summer … has been one of the most rewarding summers of my life,” Gee said. “My favorite part of this internship, outside of all the growth it has provided me, would have to be the experience working with children. As a child, the library gave so much to me, and to finally feel as though I’m able to pay that back is indescribable.”
Beach, a recent high school graduate, worked for six months at the library helping with web development, coding and content creation. Exercising her interest in photography and art, as well as her digital skills, Beach helped library staff convert their staff wiki to an interactive Drupal 7-based staff intranet, created web pages on the library’s website, provided event support at Kids Code Madison and performed communications work. Among many other unique opportunities, Beach was exposed to a professional work environment and network with tech professionals throughout her internship.
Library coordinators said they hope to continue to host interns like these in coming years, especially because of the positive impact they’ve had on library thinking and involvement in the community.