As the early days of the pandemic gave way to the summer months in 2020, the youth services staff at C.C. Mellor Memorial Library wanted to find a way to give teens a project to engage, entertain and educate while everyone was stuck inside.
That project became The Portal Hoppers: An Ongoing Podcast Adventure radio drama for which youth services assistant Allison Sennott and CCM were recently honored with a Pennsylvania Library Association Best Practices Award in the high school category.
“I love our Teen Group, and I looked forward to the Teen Podcast every week,” Sennott said. “Twenty-twenty was a hard year, and a creative distraction was just what we needed. The passion and dedication from the teens at all levels of the production blew me away. Never underestimate the healing power of practicing silly voices. Everyone has such a unique personality, with different strengths to offer. My goal is always to grow a close-knit sense of community.”
Originally, Sennott planned The Portal Hoppers project to run for one month during Summer Reading but the teens’ passion to complete a full novel-length audio drama resulted in a 12-week undertaking. Six teens met every Wednesday for 90 minutes on Zoom, with a few “guest star” friends helping along the way. They wrote the story, recorded the script and edited the finished content.
In the story, six friends are celebrating a birthday in Frick Park when a stranger gives them a magical barcode scanner. That leads to a dimension-hopping adventure in which the characters encounter new challenges throughout their quest to return home.
“Allison Sennot’s creativity, energy, and enthusiasm make her truly innovative at developing new library programming. Where Allison really shines, though, is in the relationships she builds with and among the teens who come to her programs. We are so lucky to have Allison on our team here at C.C. Mellor.”Erin Tobiasz, Youth Services Manager
It was important to create a safe space for the teens to feel comfortable, Sennott said, and in building their social literacy skills they supported one another, critiqued each other with respect and fostered a strong sense of community. They even got to work with a professional voice actor from Los Angeles who helped them to grow in their acting and directing skills.
“The PALA Best Practices Award is truly representative of the kids’ passion and dedication,” Sennott said. “We’re lucky to serve such inventive and hardworking kids here at C.C. Mellor.”
CCM director Erin Pierce called Sennott a tremendous asset to the library.
“The enthusiasm she and the teen group brought to this project was incredible,” she said. “We are thrilled they are getting the recognition they deserve.”
You can check out the podcast here:
Interested in joining Teen Group? We meet at 4:30 p.m. every Wednesday outside at CCM Edgewood to play games, make projects and hang out. All are welcome!