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Library branch in high school has first-ever internship program

Kelloggsville — For a quartet of Kelloggsville High School students, the past school year was not just about regular schoolwork, but also about making the Kent District Library branch housed in their school just a little bit better.

Daisy Aguilar, Nicaela Cervantes, Kim Huynh and Lia Siu were part of a first-ever collaboration that saw them work 10 hours a week in 2021-22 as paid interns at KDL’s Kelloggsville branch.

All four had the opportunity to also earn school credit through their participation in the new program, but chose instead to do it as a paid, non-credit opportunity, said branch librarian Clare O’Tsuji, who deemed the first-year effort a success.

One achievement for each of the four interns was a final project intended to make the library a more educational and more inclusive space. 

O’Tsuji said that after a couple of months of training, touring other KDL locations and learning about all that KDL provides, she asked her interns “How do we make this (Kelloggsville branch) library better?” 

The students created project proposals that O’Tsuji said replicated the process KDL uses when considering new services and programs. The students started work on their projects in January. 

Art, ASL and More Books

Lia worked on a community art project to highlight the Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage and experience, including the creation of 1,000 origami cranes, an effort that is open to the public until the 1,000-crane goal is reached. After that mark is met, the cranes will stay on display in the library throughout the summer.

Nicaela’s project established a gallery of art from those in the community, works that also will be displayed all summer in a celebration, O’Tsuji said, of “our incredible and creative community of students, families and other community members.”

Kim’s project was to introduce a new part of the collection to the library, a Vietnamese section. It will include books in Vietnamese and books about Vietnamese culture to be more representative of the Kelloggsville community, a new but also permanent part of the collection at Kville. 

And Daisy’s project introduced – via an event for the community at the library that she planned and promoted – a new program for learning American Sign Language, a KDL resource called ASLDeafined.

“There was a whole lot achieved by the interns this year, including through their final projects,” O’Tsuji said. “They have changed this branch to a more colorful and inclusive location with their projects and amazing skill sets.”

Branch librarian Adrianna Triche worked with Daisy Aguilar on an event to promote KDL’s online American Sign Language resource and co-presented with Daisy

Explorations of Heritage and Roots

For Kim, a Kelloggsville junior and the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, the assignment naturally led her to a deeper exploration of her heritage and her roots as she chose to expand the Vietnamese collection in the library. 

“I always want to learn more about my culture,” she said. “This was a perfect opportunity. I noticed that there were many Vietnamese people in the library or at Kelloggsville, and I thought it would be nice for people to learn about Vietnamese culture or just read Vietnamese books in general. I am hoping that people will enjoy the addition of the Vietnamese books and be interested in Vietnamese culture. It’ll be nice to know that people share my same curiosity.”

Kim said she applied for the internship because “I was always in the library after school and when Ms. Clare recommended me to apply, I figured it seemed like a good opportunity. I enjoyed it.”

Seniors Nicaela and Daisy agreed.

Nicaela said she applied for the internship because “I love reading, I love books and I love the environment (of the library).” Her community art project was important, she said, for many reasons, including “the pleasant atmosphere it created.”

She added: “It was exciting, and I was happy to see it come together. I hope people get a love for art from it that they might’ve forgotten or never knew they had, that they just have fun and enjoy themselves.”

‘I always want to learn more about my culture. This was a perfect opportunity. I noticed that there were many Vietnamese people in the library or at Kelloggsville, and I thought it would be nice for people to learn about Vietnamese culture or just read Vietnamese books in general.’

– Kim Huynh

Daisy said her ASL project began because of her own desire to learn American Sign Language, and then grew into something bigger. “It is important to me because it’s an inclusive project,” she said.

O’Tsuji said that what the students contributed will benefit both her work and also those who use the Kelloggsville branch.

“We wanted to provide a meaningful and exciting experience for teen interns to learn about the library,” she said. “Because we are inside a high school, we have a direct link to brilliant and creative teens. These interns were terrific. They all have amazing futures ahead of them, and I hope that they are even more confident due to this time with KDL. And with the completion of their projects, I understand more of the needs of our community.”

Plans are to continue the program in the fall, O’Tsuji added, with details for the next iteration still being finalized.

Daisy Aguilar, far right, organized and promoted an event at the Kelloggsville KDL branch to introduce people to KDL’s online American Sign Language resources
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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers East Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville and is the lead reporter for Grand Rapids. He hails from Exeter, Ontario (but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985) and is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop. Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both journalism and public relations, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level for almost a decade. In the summer of 2019, he began his own writing and communications business, de Haan Communications. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio

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