By Chuck Steinbower, The William K. Willis School, Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility, Ohio Department of Youth Services
Last year, I was able to conduct an extensive humanities program that exceeded my wildest expectations. I was able to conduct five author vistas, three artist visits, plus other programming through a variety of financial resources. This year due to financial restraints, I have been forced to be more creative in order to bring quality programming to my institution.
One way I’ve done this is by partnering with the school’s career-based intervention teachers to bring in volunteer speakers to talk with our youth about various career opportunities. So far, a veterinarian has come to talk about the veterinarian field as well as working in associate degree level positions within the field. Due to the success of this talk, we will be contacting a local associate degree college to discuss with youth further possibilities in the pet field as well as other associate degree level positions. Two individuals working in a local physical therapy office were invited to participate in a discussion with students about careers in the physical therapy field. One of the teachers, who will be retiring in the coming year, brought their class into the library to hear the program and was pleased to discover what avenues they could personally pursue in an associate level program as they pursue a second career after retirement. I am presently pursuing having professionals in the counseling field, barbering and flower arranging come to talk to my students about their vocations. I have been able to invite these speakers to speak for free. I’ve also seen they have good impact on the youth in my school. In addition to having outside speakers come talk to our youth, I have been able to work with the Central Office Education Administrators to have the Ohio Career Information System (OCIS) installed in all of our institution’s libraries within our district. This service is at a very low cost and helps youth see what jobs they may like to pursue.
Another way I have stretched limited resources is by establishing a link with The State Library of Ohio Library Consultants. One of the consultants is on our Library Advisory Committee and provides several ideas for programming. The consultant helps me locate grants and aids to instruction. For example, we are currently waiting on the result of a Library Services Technology Act Mini-Grant that would enable the library to have the federal government pay for an author visit while the library would purchase the author’s books for each student. The library would also collaborate with the English teachers on a report about the books. The State Library consultants also introduced me to the idea of having authors talk to the youth via Skype, a free service that allows calls over the internet, which we may pursue in the future. The State Library also has a “Choose to Read Ohio” program, which enables libraries to apply for grants and use author toolkits and more resources, which in turn can be used cooperatively with classroom teachers.
I have also established contact with the young adult services administrator at the local Delaware County District Library. She too is on the Library Advisory Council and has co-written a grant to the Oprah/American Library Association Great Reads Program. This program provides books to youth for book discussion programs. Two authors of the books that we have read agreed, free of charge, to do a phone conference with our book discussion youth. An additional source of funding has come from the Delaware County District Library’s Powell, Ohio Branch Friends of the Library Group. They collectively decided to donate funds for the purchase of books for book discussion groups that are in addition to the books provided in the Oprah program. Instead of buying Christmas gifts for each other, the Friends Group decided to use the money to buy books for our kids; several of who have never received a book as a gift before.
We have established a partnership with The Ohio Sate University Wexner Center for the Arts and their Education Outreach Administrator. This would enable a professional artist to come to our institution and work with our youth in conjunction with their Mark Bradford exhibition, which will take place this May. The Outreach Specialist has worked with us in the past in two previous outreaches that have been incorporated into our curriculum. The two previous outreaches concerned media literacy and working with an Andy Warhol exhibition. These have been unique opportunities for community participation working hand in hand with classroom teachers and librarians. This outreach has been funded through the generous gifts of those who support The Wexner center and its educational outreach.
I have established a link with the preschool-12th grade outreach librarian from The Ohio State University who is also on the Library Advisory Council. They have helped proofread grants and documents as well as introducted a connection between our secondary students and college. We are exploring ways that the local university can help provide a meaningful transition to college life. We have also established a connection between the local university’s Storytelling Festival and our school which will enable the youth to experience a nationally known storyteller first hand. The storyteller will also work with our teachers to help the students further develop written and oral expressive skills.
For the second year in a row, The Ohioana Library has agreed to provide for an author to visit our institution in conjunction with their Ohioana Author Festival. Their Annual Author Festival, which also features works by Ohio authors, grows exponentially every year, and as part of the festival, they select institutions for author outreaches the day before the festival. Last year, our youth heard Erin Lynn, due to the generosity of The Ohioana Library, and we are excited about the author which will be coming this year. It is also very fortunate that the executive director of The Ohioana Library worked previously with the Ohio Department of Youth Services so she understands the particular needs of our youth.
Finding funding for programming can be challenging. But it can be overcome with persistence, networking, and being in the right place at the right time. One should not get too frustrated at the lack of funds and obstacles that preclude the existence of programming. If one is persistent and creative, one can find a way around the obstacles in order to get things done.