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Within reach: teens tapping into career exploration.

During the fall of 2014, Richland Library's Teen Center began implementing a series of programs and services for youth, ages 12-18, that served to help this demographic begin the process of continued education and career exploration.

Understanding South Carolina's 74 percent graduation rate, the Teen Center sought ways to assist in bridging this gap by creating ease of access to many of the barriers that prevent teens from graduating from high school, attending college, or developing well-defined career goals.

COME HOMAGO WITH ME

In 2013, Richland Library opened its first dedicated Teen Center. It was designed to be a safe space for young people between the ages of 12-18. We wanted to create a space that was immersive and educational for teens where they could HoMaGo (Hang Out, Mess Around, and Geek Out).

The instructional and programmatic design of the teen center was greatly inspired by the research of cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito. Her report, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Youth Living and Learning with New Media, spoke to the importance of connected learning and bridging the digital divide in new ways through the provision of access to both emerging and existing technologies.

It was also important for us to create opportunities for teens that would provide them with programming, services, and scenarios that would prepare them to be successful, well beyond the age of eighteen.

TAPPING INTO CAREER EXPLORATION

As teens became more comfortable in their new space, a need developed for more opportunities for hands-on learning and discovery. We began to notice that a teens discovery of vocal talent in the recording booth or learning to use 3D software helped to inform and nurture newly discovered interests. Teens began sharing sentiments such as, "I want to be a record producer" or "I want to be an engineer."

These "I want" moments for teens became "what if" moments for the teen center staff, and we began to think of ways that our library-based services could grow to support career exploration. Through these discussions, we developed a career-mapping program for teens that was named Within Reach.

DEVELOPING A SUCCESSFUL FRAMEWORK

Like a traditional career fair, Within Reach would bring career professionals to the library to talk with teens. What set Within Read apart was our decision to narrow the career scope of the program to facilitate more individualized interactions between the teens and the professionals.

To do this, we utilized the National Career Clusters framework This enabled Within Reach to meet two goals for our teen center 1) build and cultivate partnerships with community organization; and businesses, and 2) create an atmosphere where our teem would benefit from purposeful, individualized interactions within a specialized career field.

In order to be successful, we knew we had to draw upon the relationships that we had built with schools. We contacted home school groups, school counselors, and media specialists In addition to calling schools, we also contacted community organizations to request participation. All of the foundational work was needed to generate excitement from teens for the Within Reach program, along with interest in participation by community organizations.

BROADENING THE CAREER SCOPE

Our first program, Within Reach: Arts and Communications, was an amazing start to the series. While we were pleased to have developed lasting partnerships with many wonderful community organizations, we were most excited to witness the growing interest of the teens who attended. We had front-row seats to witness the "aha" moments when teens began to connect with the information with which they were being presented. Since our initial program, we have continued our work with Within Reach: STEM Careers, Within Reach: Farm to Table, and Within Reach: Hands on Careers.

BUILDING ON A FOUNDATION

The overarching mission of the teen center continues to be driven by our desire to create a youth-centric third place where teens can practice HoMaGo. This mission has been enhanced by the creation and implementation of our career-based programming. It has enabled us to provide teens with 21st-century skills that will enhance their lives well into adulthood.

Teens are receptive and ready to engage in programming and services that will prepare them to be future-forward. Richland Library's Teen Center has discovered that introducing teens early and often to career mapping can unearth a newfound understanding that any career can be within reach.

WORKS CITED

Advance CTE: State Leaders Connecting Learning to Work. "Career Clusters." http://www.careertech.org/career-clustcrs

Hernandez, Brenda, and Sarah Meyer. "Understanding HOMAGO and Informal Youth Spaces." Connected Learning, http://connectedlearning.tv/brenda-henjandez-sarah- meyer-understanding-homago-and-informal-youth-spaces

Ito, Mizuko, and Heather A. Horst. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Youth Living and Learning with New Media. MIT 2013. 440p. $21 Trade pb. 978-0-262-51854-3.

Christina Fuller-Gregory is a recent graduate of Richland Library's Leadership Program, a program designed to develop and retain future library leaders. She also serves on the library's programming committee, three strategic planning committees, and is an active member of both SCLA and SCASL. Fuller-Gregory earned her M.L.I.S. from the University of South Carolina; she also holds a B.A. from Brenau University Before becoming a librarian, she worked in project management and marketing in the telecommunications field.
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Author:Fuller-Gregory, Christina
Publication:Voice of Youth Advocates
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2016
Words:859
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