Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

VolunTEEN Nation

Today we have a guest post from Simone, a founding member of Volunteen Nation.  Volunteen Nation is was created by teens, for teens to encourage volunteering and help teens find places to volunteer.  Then, stop over and read about my library teen volunteer program here.

If every library had a young adult librarian like Betsy Simmons, we truly would be a nation of readers.  At a young age, my passion for reading and exploring the library was ignited and sustained by our incredible children’s and young adult librarian.  Ms. Simmons and her staff find ways for every teen to get the most benefit from the Richmond Heights Public Library.  She creates captivating displays and offers outstanding summer reading programs, workshops and programs to attract youth. And she offered me my first volunteer opportunity at the age of 12.

Every week, I would volunteer a few hours helping with a variety of tasks in both the children’s and young adult sections.  As I got older, I searched for additional organizations where I could volunteer on site in my community. It was tough for me to find non-profit agencies that offered youth (under the age of 16 and often with minimum age requirement of 18) due to safety, security and liability concerns. Through word-of-mouth I learned about other facilities that welcomed teen volunteers. Yet, I was frustrated that there was no on-line resource for my peers to easily find local volunteer opportunities, so with the help of my brother I created a simple regional website as a resource for area youth, schools and non-profit agencies.
Since it is tough for teens to find summer employment and few recreational opportunities exist for this group, volunteering provides a great way for youth to gain work-place skills while giving back to the community. Often, volunteer work can transition into paid employment. Our all youth-led volunteer organization is dedicated to promoting service learning opportunities.

With limited funds, we utilize social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, to promote local and national volunteer opportunities. Social networking allows us to connect with organizations throughout the world. To our surprise, we had numerous requests for a national volunteer website dedicated to youth. So in March of this year we launched http://www.volunTEENnation.org to provide a resource for youth and nonprofit organizations throughout the  nation focused on youth. In addition to our online services, each spring  we host an annual youth and family volunteer fair in the St Louis  community at The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum  offering youth  the opportunity to meet and speak directly with organizations.    Our goal is to encourage non-profit organizations to involve youth.  We

want every library to offer a teen advisory board and for non-profits to  create junior boards for youth, to not only volunteer, but  to also  have  a voice and an active role in supporting the organization.  We believe that all schools, non-profits and local government agencies can and should give youth the opportunity to change the world.