Teen Tech interns learn while helping others
This summer, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System provided paid, six-week technology internships to two local teens as part of its Teen Tech Ambassador Program. Now in its second year, the internship provides two qualified students the opportunity to learn a variety of real-life job skills through hands-on experiential activities in the library’s Continuing Education Department, and provides each a $1,000 stipend.
“The application and interview process is competitive, and the students we chose, Morgan and Michael, demonstrated a genuine aptitude for technology and real enthusiasm for helping people, which is what working in this department is all about,” said Continuing Education Manager Heather Howiler.
Morgan Lewis is a senior at Heights High, and serves as vice president for Students against Destructive Decisions and the school’s Gay Straight Alliance, and is also secretary for Heights Vocal Music Department. She is an honor roll (2015–17) and merit roll (2014–15) student.
Michael Garrett Jr. graduated from Heights High in May and is now pursuing an associate’s degree in audio engineering at Tri-C. He is a member of the National Honor Society, and participated in Heights High’s Gospel Choir (tenor) and Barbershoppers (first tenor).
The program’s goal is to provide on-the-job training to high school students in the areas of digital literacy and technology training, and also to give them the opportunity to develop their emotional intelligence in a professional working environment.
In addition to learning a variety of software, Garrett and Lewis shadowed library staff to learn how best to help library customers in the computer lab and multi-media lab at the Lee Road branch, then practiced their customer service skills by helping customers under the guidance of library staff.
“I was inspired to apply for the internship for a lot of reasons,” said Lewis. “I’m in a lot of leadership roles at school. I want to be a creator, not a follower, so I need to figure out what technologies I don’t know, and get better at them. But I also applied because the library has been like a home to me for so long, and I really want to give back to my community by sharing what I learn here with others and helping them.”
Garrett echoed Lewis’ reasons and added that the skills he’s learning will help him in college and beyond. He wants to be a music producer someday, so the library’s media lab was of particular interest to him, and he plans on coming back and taking advantage of it. “When I observe the librarians helping someone in the lab,” said Garrett, "I'm right there, too, listening and learning. This have been a great experience for me.”
Howiler said one thing that surprised her about these 21st-century teens, who have smart phones and aren’t fazed by computers, was their fascination with late 20th-century technology.
“Oh my goodness, I love to fax,” said Lewis, laughing. Garrett agreed, and added that he also enjoys learning how to scan by helping people scan historical documents during the library’s Scan Your Family History class.
“I love helping people,” said Garrett. “That’s just who I am.”
Sheryl Banks is the marketing and community relations manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.