Sindhuja Kanamarlapudi is a freshman at Avon Grove High School and a frequenter of Avon Grove Library. An avid reader, Sindhuja has been checking out stacks of books at a time since receiving her own library card. Sindhuja was registered as an Avon Grove Library teen volunteer and had attended a couple of events early in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the library to close its doors and cease all in-person programming.
After discovering Avon Grove Library had adapted its volunteer program to include remote and digital tasks that teens could complete from home, Sindhuja was the first to sign up. She immediately began utilizing her love of books to create content for the library's website and social media, including book reviews, recommendation lists, and more. Before the year's end, Sindhuja had accumulated 100 hours of volunteer time, 90% of which were completed through the virtual program.
Sindhuja's service time qualified her to earn the President's Volunteer Service Award, an achievement that honors "volunteers who are using their time and talents to solve some of the toughest challenges facing our nation." The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the toughest challenges the United States and the world as a whole have faced, yet individuals like Sindhuja have persevered and sought out ways to continue giving back to their communities during this time.
Read on for an interview with Sindhuja!
How did you find out about Avon Grove Library's virtual volunteer program? Were there other opportunities like this available?
I was already part of the teen volunteer program before COVID-19, but I remember seeing a flyer or a social media post about the newly virtual program and signing up for it because it was a way to help the community develop their interests in reading. There weren’t as many opportunities like this available as lots of organizations that would’ve had in-person volunteering opportunities were operating remotely, but I was glad that the library had a virtual program so that I could continue to help the community!
What did volunteering at the library look like for you prior to COVID-19?
I started volunteering at the library last year, before COVID-19 and the shutdown that followed. For the amount of time that I was there, we guided and mentored kids through different types of programs, such as Books and Breakfast and Storytimes, and also introduced them to a diverse range of professions through crafts and activities. We planned out activities and made/tested samples of the crafts for them to prepare for the events.
What is your favorite part about the virtual volunteer program?
My favorite part of the virtual volunteer program is how much you can express yourself through the tasks that you do. We have tasks that are generally suited for anyone, whether it’s making trivia questions to making a food/drink from your favorite movie! I personally delved deep into designing and making reading recommendations for the community, but there are so many options available so you never get bored or not find something to do. There are also tasks that get added as time goes on, such as making wellness cards or writing letters to retirement homes, so there’s always a chance to help someone in the community.
How has being able to virtually volunteer for the library had an impact on you during the pandemic?
While volunteering virtually is quite different than what I was used to, I found that I was able to experience different things that I wouldn’t have been able to encounter if I had been in-person. For one, we had to navigate around using technology to complete tasks, which meant that we focused on topics such as book reviews, recommendations, playlists, poetry, and more to get kids engaged, rather than doing programs that we were used to in-person. It definitely stretched my limit on creativity, but I loved exploring that side of me through designing fun and engaging book-themed activities to encourage kids to pick up a book during the pandemic.
How has Avon Grove Library made a difference in your life?
Avon Grove Library was my go-to destination as a kid, and even now as a teenager. I remember stubbornly carrying out large stacks of books out the front entrance, the top books of the stack on the verge of falling down, then proceeding to hold them securely in the car and pick the book with the prettiest cover to read on the way home. Libraries were always my safe place and I could always count on the staff and the books there to introduce me to so many new subjects and information. It was there that I discovered Percy Jackson (a long-time favorite) and developed my love for creativity and imagination. Now as a teen volunteer, I want other kids to feel the same joy that I felt in my “safe haven” and foster a love for reading that will help them reach their full potential in the future.
Check out some of the content created by Sindhuja and other Avon Grove Library teen volunteers here.
Interested in signing up for Avon Grove Library's teen volunteer program? Learn more here!