After a pause due to the pandemic, the Community Internship program has made a triumphant return, welcoming three interns in 2023.
Launched in 2016, the internship helps prepare young adults entering the workforce to find rewarding careers and access higher education.
Essential to the program is a project-based learning component that encourages interns to learn, explore, and get inspired, all while creating S.M.A.R.T.—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound—goals to help them complete their projects.
Shelby Barnes, one of the program's first interns, now plays a pivotal role as a STEM and Learning Assistant. She fondly recalls, "I have always enjoyed going to the library since I was a kid. When I mentioned this love to my mentor, she suggested I intern at the library…I didn't expect that single decision to lead me to where I am now, but I am grateful it did."
Managing the program is Megan Burton, STEM and Learning Supervisor, who explains the most rewarding part about working with these students is "[it's] closing time, and the interns are walking with me around the outside of the library – there's laughter and joy as we check to make sure the doors are locked and say our goodbyes for the day. "Before I go, can I tell you something?" An intern asks.
We stop for a while and talk about their future goals and how things are going as they are working toward their dreams. And for many, their dreams are feeling more and more attainable because of the skills and experiences we can provide through the internship. The glimmer in someone's eyes, when they figure out how to solve a challenge they have been facing, the thrill of seeing them achieve their goals, and the meaningful heart-to-heart conversations shared with all my mentees, have been the greatest joy of my career."
After a three-year break, one intern who benefited from the return of the program was Andrew Parry, who was recruited alongside fellow intern Imogen Pederson from the Washington Youth Academy, and Alejandro Monterrey, a teen patron at the Downtown Bremerton branch.
Andrew's project pushed him to create an animated video explaining the rules of the popular card game Magic: The Gathering.
Megan explains, "Andrew worked diligently throughout the internship, graduated high school in June 2023, and applied to universities and scholarships. His goal was to complete the internship project before moving, and he set forth to create learning materials about Magic: The Gathering aimed at library audiences looking to try the game for the first time.
His animated short that explains the gameplay was not just his first time writing a script; it was also the first time he had ever animated. Andrew has a great talent for animation and a strong aptitude for technology and engineering that he will continue to explore in his new adventures in higher education."
Andrew shares, "The most rewarding part of my internship was the relationships that I forged with the people I worked with; while I learned a lot and enjoyed animating, it was amazing to be able to meet all these new people who all did things to support the library and work with Shelby and Megan the entire time."
After graduating from his internship, Andrew received a scholarship from Washington Youth Academy to further his studies at Western Washington University, where he plans to receive his bachelor's degree in computer science.
When reflecting on its impact, Megan says, "In many ways, the internship program has become my life's work, and my hope is to help every intern I can until the day I retire. This was exactly the kind of work I was dreaming about doing when I was in library school, and to be working for the same library where I attended Storytime as a child is a dream come true."