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Not just for books: Reno library hosts college and career sessions for teens

Colorful books line a library shelf in the foreground. In the background is a brown table with four chairs sitting in front of a wall with posters.
Jose Davila IV
KUNR Public Radio
The Northwest Reno Library in Reno, Nev., has a dedicated teen space where it hosts college and career sessions, like the one on Sept. 14, 2023.

The Northwest Reno Library is offering a new program to help teens navigate the ins-and-outs of applying for colleges and jobs. The goal is to encourage students to ask for help and interact with the library.

“I guess just helping people access information is maybe one of the broadest definitions,” said librarian Jessica Fanaselle.

Fanaselle has mentored college students in her spare time. She said they know how to use the internet but find that it’s hard to navigate institutional websites. That got her thinking about how to help younger students.

“We have teens who are in high school who probably have a lot of similar questions. They might find this very useful with all of the tasks they have to complete every day,” said Fanaselle.

Multicolored posters and signs with affirmations and resources for teens hang on a wall.
Jose Davila IV
KUNR Public Radio
Posters featuring affirmations and information hang in the dedicated teen space at the Northwest Reno Library in Reno, Nev., on Sept. 14, 2023.

The career readiness sessions work like office hours. Two librarians set up near the dedicated teen space and tell students how they are there to help. Then, with snacks at the ready, they wait for students to come to them with questions.

They may not have all the answers right away, but librarian Morgan Tiar said they’re trained to help everyone find information.

“In our job, we work through things with patrons, and so, we could do this with the teens,” said Tiar.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, for example, is a key collegiate financial aid form. But it is notoriously complicated to fill out.

“Where some librarians may not be familiar with FAFSA, which can be overwhelming and a lot of information, we could absolutely work through that with them,” said Tiar.

When Fanaselle was in high school, she had to figure it out on her own.

“We had a counselor at our school, but they were really busy, and I was, I think, too shy, also, to ask for their help,” said Fanaselle.

Fanaselle, who was a first-generation college student, didn’t get into the colleges she wanted to because she missed application deadlines. Her college and career sessions could be a critical resource for teens in Washoe County public schools, where there are only 73 high school counselors for roughly 20,000 students.

Fanaselle and Tiar plan to host the program monthly.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Jose Davila IV reports on K-12 education with a focus on Latino students and families in Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra. He is also a first-year Report for America corps member. Es bilingüe, su familia es de Puerto Rico, y ama los tostones de su padre más que nada.
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