The Blog

Libraries have been called “The Great Equalizer.” They provide services and spaces that everyone in the community can use and enjoy. This includes community members who cannot regularly attend programs onsite or visit the library due to lack of transportation or being homebound by other factors. The Library does not just exist in the building on Queen Street or in the other library facilities of the Neuse Regional Library System. The Library exists throughout the community thanks to outreach services designed to serve these patrons.

One particularly exciting outreach program our Library began offering this year is STEM 4 All, an initiative designed to bring library services directly to children in public housing. This program is currently in its pilot stage at the Jack Rountree Apartments, part of the Kinston Housing Authority Community. Each week, Sharon Mervin, the outreach programming coordinator, and I work with children in grades Kindergarten through 6th grade.

Participants work on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) projects, receive homework help, and expand their literacy and math skills learned in the school classroom in a setting that emphasizes fun ad supportiveness. Over the past few months, we have developed a strong rapport with the children.  Our goal is to establish a solid educational support system for them, and building trust with them is essential to their success and the success of the program.

Each session starts with a healthy snack and some decompression time; the children come straight from their bus stop to the community building where the program is housed. More often than not, everyone wants to tell us all about their day. When snack is done, we clean up and jump into journal writing. Keeping a journal is not just a way for the children to express themselves, but also shows their improvement in writing skills as time goes by.

After journal time, we participating in STEM activities, and tie in art and literacy as well whenever possible. During the month of November, for example, everyone is making an iMovie trailer using iPads to show how they are thankful for STEM. In early December, we will share the children’s creations with their classmates and parents. Creating their trailers involves making a checklist of pictures or scenes they will have to record, writing out their lines, location scouting, and helping each other film. So far, their favorite part has been trying different angles and camera tricks to get the best look for their scenes.

Once STEM activities are done, we move into homework help time. Believe it or not, this is their favorite part of the day. It isn’t unusual for the children to remind us when it’s time for homework help. Through the habitual routine of attending the program week after week, the children have become invested in what the program has to offer them, and they all want to get the most out of their time in the STEM 4 All program.

The most exciting part of this program is providing the students with opportunities to work with technology and participate in activities they may not have otherwise had. Recently, Kelly Lewis, a local artist that lives in Greenville, painted with the kids. Some of the students exclaimed that they had never painted with a brush on canvas before, and that now they were real artists. They took their work home and proudly displayed the pieces in their rooms. With the fewer opportunities for art programs in schools, the likelihood of them having this experience outside of the STEM 4 All program was slim.

Each day we visit the Jack Rountree community is a new adventure. It’s not always easy but the rewards are vast. Not only do we get to see their faces light up when they walk in the door, but we get to watch them grow in so many ways. Seeing the potential for bright futures in their faces makes it worth each and every visit.