Teen Summer Internship

Elizabeth Lynch July 25, 2017

With help from the 2017 Summer Learning Resources Grants from YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the Addison Public Library hired, trained and mentored four young adults between the ages of 16 and 18. 

Addison is an ethnically and economically diverse community. 52.8% of the population speaks a language other than English at home, reflecting our large community of immigrants. Although the area is close to the city of Chicago and surrounded by businesses and industrial parks, many residents struggle with financial instability. 15.8% live below the poverty line and 60% of students are on free or reduced-cost lunch. Residents are also less educated than the population at large; 1 in 5 adults have no high school diploma. In this environment, many young adults struggle to attain the skills they need to be college and career ready.

We designed our internship program to develop the soft skills employers say they are looking, the abilities outlined in the Ready by 21 Project (https://sparkaction.org/readiness/research/abilities), and basic knowledge of the work environment. 

To be selected, interns must fill out an application and interview with a librarian. Interns go through training, select individual projects, and take on supervisory roles with volunteers. Their primary duties are related to our summer meals program, supported by the Northern Illinois Food Bank and the federal Summer Meals Program. Our interns assist with delivery, set up, and distribution of breakfast and lunch. They help serve 100 meals a day, oversee groups of teen volunteers, and assist with traditional programming. They also select projects like outreach at community events or social media marketing. We tailor these special projects to each student's interest and goals.

Interns receive mentoring throughout the summer from teen librarians. Not only are they guided through the challenges of their internship, but are also encouraged to think about their future goals. Past interns returned to the library for references, recommendation letters, or assistance financing their college education. 

Type: Active
Age: High school
Optimal size: <5
Estimated cost: Free
Planning time: 5+ hours
Frequency: One-time

Learning outcomes

Interns will:

be able to fill out and submit an application.

be more confident in a job interview.

be able to clock in and clock out, read a shift schedule, and arrive at work on time.

be able to discuss challenges and successes with a supervisor.

report improvement in communication and customer service. 

report confidence as role model and leader among peers. 

report improvement in conflict resolution. 

report knowledge of professionalism and work standards.

report sense of ownership and responsibility. 

report improvement in project management, time management, and organization. 


In order to fund our program, which is in its third year, we applied for the Dollar General Summer Learning Grant: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/awardsandgrants/dgsummerreading. We also requested matching funds from our library's Friends association. 

We reached out to counselors, social workers, and teachers that work with high school students to find the best candidates for these positions. We gave preference to older students, as they are closer to graduation. We also gave preference to candidates that spoke Spanish and Polish, our most commonly spoken languages other than English. 

We brought our selected interns together for two days of training. The training included team building, an introduction to early literacy, behavior management techniques, and goal creation. Together we developed a structure for organizing teen volunteers and assigned interns to oversee a rotating group of teens. We also created work shifts together, teaching the interns not only how to read a schedule, but how to balance their work duties with other responsibilities. 

Throughout the summer we provide mentoring, guiding our interns to success at and outside of work. Sometimes this meant fielding questions and responding to problems interns brought to our attention. Other times, it was necessary to keep an eye on intern performance and suggest strategies or develop goals to keep interns on track. We scheduled regular one-on-one meetings with interns to get their feedback and provide direction. We consciously made positive reinforcement of readiness skills and mindsets like persistence and problem-solving frequent. 


Because the number of students involved is so low, a quantitative evaluation of the program would not be fruitful. We prefer to create opportunities for discussion and reflection among the interns. We compare their self-reported attitudes and skills with the outcomes set out for the program. 

One of the requirements of the grant is to create an instructional video for YALSA Academy. We are using this as an opportunity to engage the interns in meaningful reflection, asking them to produce the content for the video. We will also ask our interns to write a letter of thanks to our Friends association, another opportunity to make concrete the skills they learned over the summer. 

Other resources

I highly recommend that anyone interested in starting a program like this read the research around readiness. Below are links to resources we found very helpful.






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