CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA)– More than a half-million dollars was put into mentorship programs at local libraries.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White started the program, Project Next Generation, in 2000. This year it awarded $530,104 in grant funding to 28 libraries across the state.
Mattoon Public Library applied for the first time this year. Library Deputy Director Beth Pugh said they’ve been offering a STEAM program every Tuesday. The additional $8,928 will allow year-round classes of all sorts, according to Pugh.
“We always strive to offer many programs for children, all the way to young adults, and we have a really hard time getting young adults into our building,” Pugh added. “So when she found this grant, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
The Mattoon library offers free transportation from the Mattoon Middle School, and home if needed.
A different program will be offered monthly, starting with digital photography in October. Other programs coming up this year include computer coding, digital fabrication and environmental science.
Danville Public Library was awarded grant funding from Project Next Generation last year to offer computer-based courses, according to Young Adults Librarian Kaileigh Oldham.
Although, she said participation has been a challenge.
“I think because a lot of teens have been doing online learning for so long that they don’t want another class that they have to go online and do on a computer,” Oldham explained.
The computer vocational training available includes veterinary science, hospitality and tourism, and vinyl sign making.
The Danville librarian said in-person group activities have been more successful. Those are funded by the Danville Library Foundation. Oldham said, above all, the programs have been providing a safe space outside of school.
In-person activities include a Dungeons and Dragons club and a subscription box program where kids can come in and get a box with a book and other trinkets each month. Oldham said an anime club is starting up soon as well.