While the teens in the program are all volunteering their time, they are still expected to treat it like a job.
“Teens come in and pickup basic work skills. For a lot of the kids, it’s their first job interview and their first job application they fill out,” Imaginarium Manager Greg Danner said. “They train, they get put on the schedule and we treat them like a staff member.”
To become a teen volunteer at the museum, the kids have to be at least 13-years-old and volunteer at least twice a month, on top of keeping up with regular training sessions.
The majority of teen volunteers are from Anchorage, but a few commute all the way in from Palmer, Sharkey said.
Once through the application and training process, the volunteers work on the floor of the museum explaining exhibits, performing demonstrations and facilitating the marine tank. “Working with the live animals is always one of the most sought after positions among the teens,” Danner said.
Elise Mitchell is an incoming volunteer at the Museum this season. Mitchell is an East High School Student who also attends King Career Center, which is where she heard about the volunteer program. Mitchell says she’s always loved being around young kids and hopes to one day make a career out of it.
“I think this will be a great opportunity to learn more about the museum and work with kids,” Mitchell said. “I just want to help kids learn more and get more interested in the Museum.”
Past volunteers have taken their interest in science and their experiences as a volunteer and gone on to get degrees in the sciences and working at recognized institutions, according to Danner.
Danner worked at the former incarnation of the Imaginarium for years and just recently started working at the Imaginarium again. “I came back to the Imaginarium after being away for a few years because it’s an exciting place to work, and I think a lot of the teens that volunteer here feel the same way. It’s not another mundane volunteer job.”