Students faced with the challenge of earning service hours AND practice social distancing, need to look no further than the Hub’s recently launched Volunteer in Place (VIP) program. Accessed entirely online, VIP provides teens in grades 7-12 with volunteer projects to do at home like creating cards for hospitalized kids or making dog and cat toys for local animal shelters. Teens keep track of their progress on Beanstack, similar to participating in the library’s reading programs. Completed service projects earn badges and ultimately volunteer hours for good deeds done—all from home.
“We offer something for everyone,” says Teen Advisor Kate Henry, who helped to create VIP in response to emails received from teens during the lockdown who needed help fulfilling service hour requirements for school. “Some teens like crafting, some teens like writing and some teens like participating in science projects. We wanted our volunteer activities to be just as diverse as our teens and their interests.”
More than 100 teens have signed up for VIP since the program’s launch in June. The volunteer badges rotate and can range from Citizen Scientist, teens aid professional scientists with various projects online, to Decorate Windows or Sidewalks, teens create window and sidewalk decorations to spread positivity during the pandemic. Other recently added activities include painting kindness rocks to be placed around the community and recommending books and other materials for the library’s Teen Picks display.
“A lot of the projects feel really timely like writing cards to the elderly in nursing homes since you can’t go visit as much,” says Hannah Abbott, a senior at Prospect High School who has completed four activities to earn service hours for National Honor Society and the Harper Promise Scholarship. “It can be hard sometimes to keep morale up so to have something like VIP to do from home makes me feel happier. It feels good to help others and the projects are super easy and fun to do.”
Risha Bongu, a junior at Rolling Meadows High School, agrees. One of the activities she chose was to make a sign to hang in her window that encourages her neighbors and passersby.
“When people walk by and they see ‘have a great day,’ it feels good,” says Risha. “It’s a nice experience to have, I’m doing something for myself and also doing something nice for someone else.”
VIP will continue to offer new activities so students can earn volunteer hours throughout the school year.
“The library is here for teens,” says Teen Services Supervisor Alice Son. “At their age, school is one of their main priorities and the library wants to help them succeed as students which for many includes earning service hours. VIP provides students with opportunities to reach their goals and give back to the community in such a direct way, which feels particularly important at the moment.”
For more information, visit ahml.info/teens/volunteer.