This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.
Families and area residents of all ages are invited to a communitywide party from 2-4 p.m. Saturday at the Pleasant Hill Library that will celebrate world cultures with fun activities.
The Pleasant Hill Library's Teen Advisory Group is organizing the event, called "World Party -- a multiethnic extravaganza." Then, on Sunday, the Contra Costa County Library system will celebrate it 100th anniversary during a separate community party.
Natalie Hill, a 16-year-old College Park High School junior, was busy preparing for the World Party along with three other members of the teen group earlier this week. Natalie, who is president of the teen group, said she got the idea for the World Party from a multicultural rally at College Park High earlier this year. She and other students in the group decided it would give them a way to celebrate their own diversity, she said.
"Our goal is to basically educate patrons who come in through fun activities and food," she said. "It's going to be super awesome, so everyone should come!"
The party will include art, dancing, food and games, Natalie said. She and her friend Dean Shim were creating signs to hang in the library on Thursday, while Pleasant Hill Middle School eighth-grader Alanna Dangerfield was making decorations along with Abhinav Singh, a Valley View Middle School eighth-grader.
Alanna, 13, was making "panel picado," which means "cut paper." She was cutting a butterfly design in colorful tissue paper, which could be folded and hung on string or used to decorate booths at the event.
Abhinav, who is also 13, was creating "rangoli" designs from India on paper window hangers. These floral designs are typically created during the Indian holiday called Diwali, he said.
"It's supposed to make your home have good luck," Abhinav said. "It can be made with white flour, rice or chalk. But, we're doing it with paper, because we don't want it to be messy."
The World Party will also include traditional Japanese dancing, origami, Farsi calligraphy, Mexican arts and crafts, Irish soda bread and Hindu bread, Natalie said. To make visitors feel as though they are traveling around the world, the teens were also making airplane decorations.
Both Veronica and Abhinav said they have been members of the teen group since it started two years ago. Natalie also joined the group at that time, after moving to Pleasant Hill from Southern California.
"I've always enjoyed going to the library since I was a kid," Natalie said. "The teen advisory group is a really great way for teens to learn leadership skills and to work together as a team. We all have the same love for the library, so it's a really great group to be in."
About 20 middle and high school students are in the group. Dean, who is now a college student, was also in the group during high school.
"I just like them so much because we all share that passion with the library," Natalie said. "It's not like school, where you feel pressured by other people. It's a very free experience, so that's what I really like about it."
Natalie said the group includes a lot of middle school students, in part because the library is close to Pleasant Hill Middle School.
"The teen advisory group gives them a way to be creative and work toward something together," Natalie said. "It's really cool."
Natalie said she has always appreciated libraries because they provide a place where everyone can feel safe in a free learning environment. In fact, she loves libraries so much that she said she'd like to become a librarian after she graduates from college.
Both Natalie and Dean have been selected by the library to be interviewed by the national StoryCorps program about how the library has impacted their lives. Alanna's mother, Veronica Dangerfield, is also participating in the program along with library Commissioner Katherine Bracken.
An article about the StoryCorps program should be published in this newspaper next week. You can see videos of Natalie talking about the World Party and her library volunteer work at www.ContraCostaTimes.com.
To weigh in on a survey to help shape the county library's strategic plan, visit ccclib. org. mylibrary.
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