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The Chicago Ridge Public Library, 10400 S. Oxford, Chicago Ridge, received a state grant of $4,015 that has been used to develop STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Science) programming for teens. (Supplied photos)

The Chicago Ridge Public Library, 10400 S. Oxford, Chicago Ridge, received a state grant of $4,015 that has been used to develop STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Science) programming for teens. (Supplied photos)

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State grant helps fund Chicago Ridge Library STEAM programs

By Kelly White

For the eighth year in a row, the Chicago Ridge Public Library was the proud the recipient of the Project Next Generation Grant.

Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White awarded $530,104 in 2022 Project Next Generation grants to 28 public libraries statewide. The Chicago Ridge Public Library, 10400 S. Oxford, Chicago Ridge, received a grant in the amount of $4,015.

“We are thankful for this money as it allows our Youth Services department to develop innovative STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Science) programming for teens,” Dana Wishnick, Chicago Ridge Public Library Director, said.

PNG donates funds to provide technology and mentors to help at-risk youth. The purpose of the PNG grant is for public libraries to establish educational after school programs that not only provide access to computers, software, and various technology devices, but also have mentors who are crucial to helping students develop self-confidence and pride in their newly acquired skills.

Chicago Ridge Public Library’s Youth Services Manager, Irene Ciciora, applied for the grant in March. The PNG program is a competitive grant program with no funding guarantees for applicants.

“We are super happy to have received the grant,” Ciciora said. “This grant means to me the ability to provide new programs for our tweens and teens that are educational and engaging. Participants have the opportunity to try a variety of new technologies that we would not be able to provide for them without this grant. I am very appreciative that this grant opportunity is available and that we have been able to apply year after year and have been successful in our grant writing to receive these wonderful opportunities for our community.”

Projects were awarded grants from the Illinois State Library using federal Library Services and Technology Act funds provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Grants are awarded to public libraries serving culturally diverse, low-income and underserved populations.

Over the past eight years, the library has been able to purchase over $58,000 worth of materials.

With the addition of these educational items, staff said today’s youth are truly the ones gaining the benefits.

“Through PNG, the Chicago Ridge Public Library empowers at-risk tweens and teens ages 10-18 in our community to learn today, lead tomorrow by providing clubs that promote learning in the areas of STEAM in a safe environment where mentors provide guidance and support,” Cicoria said. “By offering a variety of clubs in the areas of science and math, learners will be immersed in various new technologies that will provide opportunities for growth and development which will lead to the increased knowledge in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.”

By offering these high-interest programs and clubs like a Gardening Club, Technology-Nintendo Switch Club, Engineering-Lego Engineering Club, Art-Diamond Art Club to area youth, the library has encouraged life-long learning, increased program participation, increased multi-generational interactions through the mentoring program and increased overall library visits.

“Tweens and teens have shown a vested interest in their public library,” Ciciora said. “They feel that it is a destination where they are comfortable visiting because they feel valued and included. This sense of belonging has helped our tweens and teens to encourage their peers to visit the library for socializing, attending programs, checking out library resources, and attending events in the community that help them feel valued and respected in their community.”

reporter Chicago Ridge steam grant2 2021

The Chicago Ridge Public Library, 10400 S. Oxford, Chicago Ridge, received a state grant of $4,015 that has been used to develop STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Science) programming for teens.

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