Community Ambassador at Shadow Wood keeps kids engaged throughout the summer

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Giovanna Olea in the community center in Shadowwood community on Thursday, April 17, 2014. photo by Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

By Giovanna Olea/For – Giovanna Olea works for as a community ambassador in a computer lab at Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park. has opened and operated a computer lab within the park for the community since 2011. Olea writes about her experiences here.

The computer lab in Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park has been very busy this summer!

Most of this is because the economy has fallen so badly that many families are unable to travel to their original countries or even take a short break.  The earnings these families make from their jobs do not help enough. They have to take care of their home mortgage, gas, water, and other bills, including clothes and food.  The little money that is left, if there is any, is saved for an emergency.

Some children attend summer school, and I am there to help them out with any questions they might have. As always, they all have questions about English, Spanish and math. Not all of the children visiting the lab go to summer school, so I am able to help all of those who do.

I try to keep the rest of the children as active as I can. For example, last week I asked them to recycle the things that their parents usually throw away, like paper, or that they do not use anymore. All of them brought bottles, toilet paper rolls, three or four markers, paper, and many other things. We made crafts with all these supplies.

First we painted the cardboard with each of the children’s favorite color, mostly pink, blue and green. I then showed the children how to fold the sides, and they cut color paper in pieces so they could stick it to the cardboard. The children made a variety of projects, including an owl, a car, a penguin, a butterfly, bunnies, and a pen or pencil holder.

We did the same thing with the bottles. Some children painted them and others used the colored paper to cover them. They made some bees, a pig, and a lion.

It is very important to help children stay active and teach them that what they think is garbage is not always garbage. We can reuse many items to make wonderful things. Hopefully these activities will help the children understand that recycling is important. We are helping our planet and still having fun.

In 2012, worked with faculty from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science to secure a grant from the state that offers skills training to help participants secure jobs. The money was used to place community ambassadors in public computer labs to offer computer literacy training and workshops to underserved populations from the Urbana Free LibrarySalt and Light Food Pantry and Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park as well as a public computer lab in East St. Louis. At the end of the grant, retained Olea to continue her work. 

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