Behind every children’s program at Bedford Public Library there is careful planning and often a dedicated teen volunteer at work. Each year we recruit between five and 10 teen volunteers, many of whom stay with us for several years. We delight in watching them develop socially and professionally.

I recently spoke with Jessica Nguyen, Jad Issa, and Jonathan Hage, all students at Charles P. Allen High School, about their experience as volunteers.

The students say they enjoy volunteering because it allows them to relax and feel more balanced in their lives. For Jessica, volunteering is a “great stress-reliever.” She and the other students are enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program, and she finds the work at the library a relaxing and enjoyable way to meet new people. Jessica has been a key part of our children’s English language learning group meeting each Saturday morning. Her warmth encourages the children who participate.

Volunteer work is also key in developing social skills. The teens work together to help deliver programs and prepare materials. They also work with children and their parents. Jessica, Jonathan, and Jad all tell me that it’s the busy, social environment in the library that has made their work fun and rewarding.

We at the Bedford branch have benefited greatly from working with youth who have skills in other languages. This summer I marvelled at Jonathan speaking English, Arabic, and French with children registering for the summer reading program while working with us at a Bedford Days event. Jad impressed us with his translation skills as he completed a computer basics handout in Arabic. These are skills that come naturally to our teens, and which are a great asset to the community.

Our goal in recruiting volunteers is to build on their social and employment skills. We are always thrilled when we get an opportunity to offer a paid position to a volunteer. Jad and Jonathan were recently hired at the branch; Jad for a summer C@P (IT) student position, and Jonathan for a clerk position. “Aside from all the fun I had this summer, I also got a job!” he says.

There is always a new challenge for teens to take on. This year our volunteers will be busy with their own library advisory committee that will help us to design and offer programs that are teen approved.

Many young people seek volunteer opportunities to meet requirements for their International Baccalaureate program, and they find that the experience helps them beyond the academic world. They also build friendships, become mentors, and help others. We thank them for their generosity. Visit Halifax Public Libraries volunteer page to learn more.

Hannah Colville is the manager at the Bedford branch of the Halifax Public Libraries. halifaxpubliclibraries.ca.