Teen shed shyness as library volunteer

Rosemont Middle School eighth-grader Lace Co Ting Keh says she learned a lot during the summer at the La Crescenta Public Library. But, she wasn't just talking about the valuable lessons she retained from multiple books. A self-proclaimed shy teen, Co Ting Keh said her work as a volunteer at the library helped her develop into a more confident person who now understands how to communicate well with others.

A native of the Philippines, Co Ting Keh and her family moved to the United States a little more than one year ago to support her old brother's education at Duke University. Although Lance, Co Ting Keh's older brother, is attending school in North Carolina, the rest of the Co Ting Kehs moved to La Crescenta to surround themselves with family and friends and better familiarize themselves with the country.

As a teen in a new country, Co Ting Keh admits that she was introverted during her first year of American schooling. In July, however, she decided to volunteer at the La Crescenta Library at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and La Crescenta Avenue in an effort to branch out.

"I read at the library a couple times before I decided to volunteer," Co Ting Keh said. "I wanted to learn how to talk to people. I was really shy back then. I wanted to make good use of my time and help out."

Throughout the summer, Co Ting Keh volunteered at the library Monday through Friday, up to eight hours per day. She helped ship materials, alphabetize books and communicate with library readers. But, she said her favorite activity was helping fellow teens out with the library's teen summer reading program.

Since 2006, the County of Los Angeles Public Library has run the raffle-based program. For every book a teen reads, he or she fills out a corresponding bookmark review that is placed in a raffle box for a drawing at the end of the summer. The grand prize this year was an Asics laptop.

Co Ting Keh not only helped other students in the program, but she also participated herself, reading and filling out book reviews for four books this summer — her personal favorite being an American history book titled "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Her staff supervisors were very impressed with her volunteer work and reading efforts.

"She was a pleasure to have here this summer, making our job easier," said Marta Wiggins, the community library manager. "It was a pleasure having her at the library."

Co Ting Keh's hard work paid off. A library supervisor notified her that she had won the grand prize Aug. 25 when her name was pulled out of the raffle box that contained more than 4,500 entries. The new laptop was hers for the keeping. It was a prize she said caught her off guard.

"At first I thought it was a joke because I only put four [bookmarks] in," she said. "I saw all the teenagers put eight or 10 bookmarks in, so I didn't think I had a chance."

Co Ting Keh is yet to use the laptop but said she plans on using it mostly for homework. As she spends most of her days inside a classroom now, she admits it's hard for her to dedicate as much time to the library as she did during the summer, but she spends a few hours a week helping when she can. Wiggins said it is possible that the eighth-grader could join the library's teen advisory board sometime in the near future.

Although Co Ting Keh's main focus is school, she said she still has a strong interest in volunteering and wants to also make time to help out at a daycare center or the fire department.

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