The County Voice

Meeting the Challenge: Tulare County’s Teen Digital Media Lab

When Faythe Arredono talks about Tulare County’s Teen Digital Media Lab, her eyes light up. That sparkle is only matched by the teenagers who participate in the program. Ask the likes of students Araceli Mendoza or Vincent Macareno and you can see why this program has such a positive impact.

Tulare County library staff knew they could do a better job of connecting teens through the library, but the question was how. “We tried some things. Some worked, some didn’t, but we could never really get anything off the ground,” explained County Librarian Jeff Scott. That’s where Faythe Arredondo comes in. She was hired in 2011 as the County’s first-ever Teen Services Librarian.  Right away she started exploring ways to get teens engaged digitally. With the help of a grant from the California State Library, she was off and running.

“There’s a really high illiteracy rate in our county, and a lot of people don’t have things we take for granted. They don’t have cell phones, they don’t have computers, they don’t have Internet access at home,” Arredondo said.  “I realized that with this money, I could create a digital media lab.”

Arredondo purchased equipment – including Macbooks, iPads, software and a television — and then the teens took over.  It wasn’t long before they discovered they each had a “niche of creativity,” as County Librarian Scott puts it.  The teens were given the freedom – and responsibility – to do what they wanted.  And what they did was create the County Librarian’s Summer Reading Program, utilizing the digital tools to which they now had access.

The teens decided on a program based on the board game Clue.  They had to create a video version of the game, write the script, act in the videos, shoot the videos and upload it to the web. The result is an entertaining series of videos titled, “A Summer to Die For.”

“We worked on it for months and then we finally got to see how everyone reacts to it,” explained 11th grader Vincent Macareno. “It’s awesome; it’s a great feeling.”

For the teens involved, the digital lab has been a great learning experience on a number of fronts. For Araceli Mendoza, it meant learning software that she will use as she pursues her dream of becoming a graphic artist. For Gunner Santos, it was learning basic computer skills. Tenth grader Jessika Salgado has learned how to meet deadlines; her older sister Erica has learned how to take charge and be responsible.

And for Teen Services Librarian Faythe Arredondo, it means overseeing a program that has is “beyond her wildest expectations.”

To watch  a video about Tulare County’s “Teen Digital Media Lab” program, click here.

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