What did you do this summer? Over forty teenagers can now answer that question this summer by sharing about their volunteer experiences at the Library of Congress.
30 of these teens volunteered at the National Book Festival on August 12, 2023. They assisted several states in the Roadmap to Reading area, oversaw activities at the Story District children’s reading stage, and reported on author sessions. The teens also curated a list of must-see activities for teens at the National Book Festival which they passed out around the Festival. We thank the contributions these teens made to this year’s National Book Festival and look forward to highlighting more teen activities at next year’s book festival.
In addition to the teens who volunteered during the National Book Festival, 12 participants in the Library of Congress’s high school summer internship program spent four weeks of their summers to creating primary source boxes for an upcoming Library of Congress education center. A few of those teens were able to share in-person about their projects at the National Book Festival. For readers who missed that presentation during the hustle of the National Book Festival, Part One of this blog post introduced some of their projects. Here in Part Two, we’ll dive into four more projects.
Khadija & Caroline: Political Trailblazers
Though both onsite intern Khadija and remote intern Caroline had an interest in politics, they were both slightly intimidated about running for student office. Their research goal was to find inspiration in politicians who broke barriers as the “firsts” to hold office—from Sharice Davis’s exploration of her “big voice” as one of the first two Native American women to serve in the House of Representatives to a poster from Shirley Chisholm’s groundbreaking 1972 Presidential campaign. They were most excited that their research uncovered figures that they had never heard of before–such as Octaviano Larrazolo, the first Mexican-American to serve in the Senate. As they reflected, “None of the figures we studied would have made history if they didn’t first make the decision to run for office.” After a summer studying groundbreaking political leaders, they both decided to run for student government this year.
Daniel & Brianna: Cherokee Culture
Eleventh grader Briana has Cherokee and Choctaw heritage, while senior Daniel recently completed a project about the Cherokee Nation for National History Day. Because of this common interest, they created a primary source box that pulls together different representations of Cherokee people in the Library’s collection. They explored the history of the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper, with a little help from specialists in the Serials and Government Publications Division who helped Daniel examine collections items onsite. They also looked at contemporary images, such as this Carol Highsmith photograph. Ultimately, they hope that their project challenges stereotypes about indigenous cultures by highlighting the ways that Cherokee people fought for self-determination and expressed their identities, today and in the past.
Vivian & Aiden: Music of the Civil Rights Movement
Onsite intern Vivian and remote intern Aiden were both interested in how music and society intersect. They tried to find connections between music and musicians in the Library’s collection, and the Civil Rights movement. Their sources included a photograph of Tina Turner performing for a segregated audience, and the text of a bill for a Congressional Gold Medal posthumously honoring the legacy of Aretha Franklin. As a conclusion to their project, they want young people learning about this topic to ask “What’s your favorite song? What is it REALLY about?” as they make connections between the music we listen to and the world we live in.
Kristina & Sophia: Little Women
Voracious readers Kristina and Sophia rounded out our internship cohort. They researched the real-life history behind one of their favorite books, “Little Women”. They explored collections items related directly to author Louisa May Alcott’s life – such as this photograph of Orchard House where she lived. Other items that represented the general time period she was writing in included fashion plates, and photographs of Civil War nurses. They even worked with Informal Learning Office Educational Specialist Rachel Gordon to make a replica of a handkerchief given to Mrs. March in the novel, which they paired with information about this famous handkerchief in the Library’s collection. As they learned how the author was influenced by events she personally witnessed, they wrote a poem inspired by their own experiences—a summer at the Library of Congress.
The work the teens completed will have a lasting impact on the Library. The materials the teens created will be considered for inclusion in The Source. This is a new education center that will open at the Library in the next few years and provide children and their families a space to discover how research can nourish curiosity, creativity, and change. We are excited to feature teen voices in the new space, and even more excited to have heard from teens enthusiastic about the collections this summer. The work the interns did helped us see the Library through the eyes of young people. Like all our Library alumni, we hope they will be lifelong advocates for using the Library and its collections—no matter where their future career paths take them.