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For the first time in two years, Historic Triangle kids will have the opportunity to apply for a spot in Colonial Williamsburg’s Junior Interpreter program.
A Junior Interpreter Expo is being held at the Bruton Heights Education Center on Feb. 6 and is open to kids ages 10 to 18 living in James City County, the City of Williamsburg and the Bruton District of York County.
The Expo, which is held roughly every other year, is the only opportunity for children to become involved with the Junior Interpreter program, which places kids in costumed roles throughout the homes and shops of Colonial Williamsburg’s historic area.
The program, which is almost two decades old, provides a volunteer opportunity for local kids that serves as a fun social outlet, a valuable workplace experience and a great activity to list on college resumes, said Trish Barner, volunteer programs coordinator for Colonial Williamsburg.
“Learning to volunteer their time is such an important lesson in life, and it exposes [the Junior Interpreters] to getting along in a job setting,” Barner said.
This year, Colonial Williamsburg is looking for about 40 new Junior Interpreters, many of whom will work in trade shops, including the carpenter and joiners shop, millinery, silversmith, wig shop, colonial nursery and foundry.
While positions in the trade shops are usually reserved for kids ages 13 and up, Barner said, many of the younger volunteers are placed in colonial households where they help in the kitchen, do needlepoint, complete household chores, dance and play games.
Kids hoping to snag a position in any of these roles will have their one chance to apply at the Expo, which Barner describes as job fair of sorts where children and their parents can go from booth to booth and gather information about the roles available.
If they are interested in pursuing one of the openings, kids will fill out an application on the day of the Expo and identify the top two areas they would be interested in volunteering in. Over the next two weeks, the supervisors in each area will review the applications and call back likely candidates for interviews, with the final selection to take place around the end of the month.
As for what kind of kid is ultimately selected to become a Junior Interpreter, Barner said supervisors look for a “precocious” child with an outgoing personality who is comfortable speaking to both other children and adults.
“We want someone who is not afraid to talk to the public,” Barner said.
While being outgoing is key, a love of history and the ability to think on their feet are also desirable qualities for a Junior Interpreter.
Once a child is selected, kids and parents attend an informational orientation meeting to learn all about the rules and expectations of the program. From there, the new interpreters are fitted for costumes and spend several Saturdays throughout the spring being trained on site.
After graduating from orientation and training in May, the new batch of Junior Interpreters will begin volunteering in earnest throughout the summer. Most of the Junior Interpreters volunteer an average of four hours a week, Barner said, though some do a little more or less.
Once in the program, Junior Interpreters may continue to volunteer on Saturdays during the school year or over winter break if they choose. Many volunteers continue to participate in the program for many years after their initial acceptance, and some even go on to become employees with Colonial Williamsburg.
“We’re hoping some of these children [volunteering in the trade shops] go on to become apprentices and journeymen one day,” Barner said.
A few of the Junior Interpreter roles, including the dance program, even have the potential for kids to transition into becoming paid employees of Colonial Williamsburg before they turn 18.
Regardless of whether they hope to become long-term employees or just to have an educational and fun experience this summer, Barner believes every kid will take something positive away from the Junior Interpreter program.
“The best part is they just learn so much from it,” Barner said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
The Junior Interpreter Expo will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 6 at the Bruton Heights Education Center. Only children present the day of the Expo will be considered.