Libraries’ youngest volunteers are able and more than willing

MUKILTEO — Sarah Khan is just one of the students out to show that community service doesn’t just begin in high school.

Khan, 12, a seventh grader at Explorer Middle School, is one of a group of middle school students who are volunteering part of their Saturdays at the Mukilteo Library.

“I just want to help others in the community to help make it better,” she said.

The program specifically designed for middle school volunteers kicked off in January, said Melleny Thomasson, teen services librarian. 

It was created because some middle school students are required to have community service hours, she said.

The middle school volunteer program is for students in sixth to eighth grades. Many of the students attend nearby Harbour Pointe Middle School. But some students also have come from other nearby public and private schools, some to fulfill community service requirements.

Some don’t need the volunteer hours. “They just show up because they want to; they just show up to help,” Thomasson said.

Maria Oehling, a teacher at Harbour Pointe Middle School, said that for the past 12 years the school has had a requirement of 10 hours of community service. 

Student volunteer projects have included working at a community garden in Mukilteo, helping babysit children whose parents are attending parent-teacher organization meetings, making cards for members of the military and scarves for children at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Oehling said.

Nancy Patton, who coordinates the volunteer program for Sno-Isle Libraries, said middle-school-aged students volunteer at libraries throughout its system.

The volunteer program is open to anyone of almost any age, she said. Those 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Nearly a third of the system’s 686 volunteers last year were between the ages of 12 and 19, she said.

Hallie Weed, 12, a seventh grader at Harbour Pointe Middle School, said she helped out at the library by cutting pictures out of magazines and cleaning desks. 

“I got to meet new friends and see some of my old friends there,” she said.

Alex Lam , 13, a Harbour Pointe Middle School eighth grader, volunteered at the Mukilteo Library in March. His duties included cutting pieces of paper so that children could write notes about a story that a librarian was reading to them.

This and other volunteer work has “helped me understand what others have done for me,” Lam said.

Middle school students are willing and able to do a lot more than they’re often allowed to do, Thomsson said. “They’re eager to do anything we ask them to do. They sit there and work. When other people come to the library and see the kids working, they think it’s wonderful they’re donating their time like that.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

The program for middle school volunteers takes place the second Saturday of every month during the school year at the Mukilteo Library, 4675 Harbour Pointe Blvd. Any student interested in the program can show up at 10:30 a.m. For more information, call the library at 425-493-8202.  

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