Over $ 500,000 is spent on mentoring programs in public libraries

CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) – Over half a million dollars has been invested in mentoring programs at local libraries.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White started the program, Project Next Generation, in 2000. This year, it awarded a grant of $ 530,104 to 28 state libraries.

Mattoon Public Library applied for the first time this year. Deputy library director Beth Pugh said she offers a STEAM program every Tuesday. The additional $ 8,928 will allow classes of all kinds year-round, according to Pugh.

“We always strive to have a lot of programs for kids, right up to young adults, and we really have a hard time getting young adults into our building,” added Pugh. “So when she found this grant, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.”

The Mattoon Library offers free transportation from Mattoon Middle School and home if needed.

A different program will be offered each month, starting with digital photography in October. Other programs coming up this year include computer coding, digital manufacturing, and environmental science.

A complete list of Project Next Generation (PNG) 2022 grant recipients. Source: Illinois Secretary of State
For more information: https://www.ilsos.gov/departments/library/grants/png.html

According to young adult librarian Kaileigh Oldham, the Danville Public Library received a Project Next Generation grant last year to offer computer-based lessons.

However, she said participation was a challenge.

“I think because a lot of teens have been taking online courses for so long that they don’t want another course that they have to take online and take on a computer,” Oldham explained.

Professional computer training available includes veterinary science, hospitality and tourism, and vinyl sign making.

The Danville librarian said in-person group activities were more successful. These are funded by the Danville Library Foundation. Oldham said that, above all, the programs provided a safe space outside of school.

In-person activities include a Dungeons and Dragons club and subscription box program where kids can walk in and get a box with a book and other trinkets each month. Oldham said an anime club is going to start soon.

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