Teen summer volunteers connecting with community

This year’s Teen Summer Volunteer program goes through the end of July, but already the community can see the efforts of the teen volunteers paying off.

Since June 10, volunteer teams have been serving the community in various ways, including helping local organizations, creating outdoor public artwork, and showing younger kids why science, technology, engineering, and math are fun.

One team—The Muralists—has created a work of public art for the whole community to enjoy. It’s now installed outside Dole Center, 255 Augusta St., which also is home to Dole Branch Library. Watch the video »

‘If you can think it, you can probably do it’

For two weeks in the Main Library Idea Box, The Muralists worked alongside local artist Tia Etu to create the mosaic peace sign sculpture that’s now outside Dole. The teens painted and hammered and glued hundreds of mosaic fragments they’d collected—CD shards, doll parts, glass beads, shattered ceramic plates, marbles, and more.

One team member, Sai, a high school junior, says that working with Etu gave her insight into the process of a professional artist.

And she came away with a message of empowerment. The project did take a lot of time, consideration, organization, and hard work, Sai says. But anyone can make art, so don’t be discouraged: “If you can think it, you can probably do it.”

‘Effort and patience, and teamwork’

Etu, a working artist with a studio on Harrison Street in the Oak Park Arts District, has created murals along the Green Line in Oak Park and in the Arts District, as well as outdoor sculptures around town. In last summer’s program, she mentored the team that created a mural in the Main Library’s Teen Study Room. She says this summer’s mosaic project required a lot of problem solving, teamwork, and listening skills.

“It’s really about effort and patience,” Etu says. “And teamwork.” The team learned a lot as they worked through some creative differences, she adds. “And that was good, because they figured it all out. And in the end they had a project, and they all left with smiles.”

‘An opportunity to see how awesome teens in Oak Park are’

High School Services Librarian Rachael Bild, who facilitates the library’s summer volunteer program, says the sculpture installation could not have happened without the help and support of the Park District of Oak Park, which now owns the Dole building.

Collaborating with them “seemed like a really great chance to highlight that partnership we already have,” Bild says. “I was really excited that the Park District felt the same way.”

The new “artful garden” outside the building entrance “brings in a different energy and makes this space feel more intentional, more important, more beautiful,” she says.

And the biggest reason to install the sculpture outside Dole Center? “We wanted to make sure that the community had an opportunity to see how awesome teens in Oak Park are,” Bild says.

Another librarian involved, Rose Barnes, says she sees teens return to the program year after year. “It really fosters a love of the library and a connection to the community,” Barnes says.

Who participates in the Teen Summer Volunteer Program?

  • Students going into grades 7 and up in fall 2019
  • No experience or Oak Park residency required
  • Now closed to applications, the program continues through Saturday, July 27

What are the three other teams working on?

Forum Theatre Troupe Team

This team uses improv techniques to create, rehearse, and perform a short play that explores problems in our society. Following a facilitated discussion, audience members will be invited to stop a scene and try different interventions to change the outcome. These methods might just help you change the world through imagining new responses to old problems! This team also is exploring ideas around social justice and learning improv; no acting experience or skills required.

  • Meets weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 11-July 25, 1:30-3:30 pm
  • Performance to be held the week of July 22, exact day to be determined
  • Main Library Veterans Room


The teens show kids why science, technology, engineering, and math are fun! They’re designing and constructing projects like straw bridges or “elephant toothpaste” and helping students ask questions and explain evidence as they investigate and experiment. This team is great for those who want to teach, tinker, and explore. It does not require particular math or science skills.

  • Meets weekly on Thursdays, June 13-July 25, 1:30-3:30 pm

VOLT (Volunteer Opportunities for Library Teens) Team

Teens on this team bring their talents and learn something new while they help keep the library functioning and work with community organizations. This team offers flexibility and choices, such as finding books, creating displays, making crafts, and more. This team is also an incubator—if members have an idea for a project to do, an organization to benefit, or a problem they’d like to address, they can work to make it happen.

  • Meets weekly on Wednesdays, June 12-July 24, 3:30-5 pm and/or Saturdays, June 15-July 27, 10:30 am-12 pm

Images above are from the 2018 summer program.

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