When Colonial Williamsburg wanted to expand its youth translator program, a former volunteer reminisced about their journey – The Daily Press

WILLIAMSBURG — Over the years, countless young volunteers have come through Colonial Williamsburg. Some stay for the summer. Some stay for years. And some, like Emma Cross, Adam Canaday and Brodie Adams, stick around forever.

Cross, Canaday and Adams were all former youth volunteers who eventually joined Colonial Williamsburg as employees.

As a child, Cross visited Colonial Williamsburg several times, stopping en route from his family’s home in Bethesda, Maryland, on his way to the beach. When her family moved to Williamsburg in 2001, she quickly applied to volunteer, and joined what became known as the character translation unit in 2002 at the age of 11.

“I was like, yeah, dreams come true,” he said. “It’s just something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid visiting Colonial Williamsburg.”

A photo of Emma Cross as a youth volunteer, waiting with her brother Daniel for dance lessons at Christmas time in the living room of the James Geddy House.  The brothers were among a number of young volunteers who eventually joined Colonial Williamsburg as employees.  Courtesy of the Williamsburg Colonial Foundation

After a three-year hiatus due to COVID, Colonial Williamsburg is reviving its youth translator program, which began in the 1980s.

“Many of our students, young translators, their families have worked in Colonial Williamsburg or volunteered in Colonial Williamsburg for a long time,” says Volunteer Program Manager Jan Bomar, who oversees all volunteer programs at Colonial Williamsburg. “During COVID, the whole program was shut down… so we’re really working to scale it back up.”

To help fill its ranks of youth volunteers, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation held a Youth Interpreter Expo on Saturday, its first event since 2018. The foundation is trying to spread the word in society, Bomar said.

The event will be held at the Woodlands Conference Center on Visitor Center Drive between 1-5pm. Expo attendees can learn more about the youth volunteer program, submit applications, and conduct on-site interviews.

There are three different volunteer opportunities available. For children aged 12-18, there is a Historic Area Patriots at Play program in the summer and a year-round Historic Trades and Skills program. Fourth graders can currently sign up for Fifes and Drums, which is a year-round activity.

Of the three volunteers turned employees, Canaday, now a train driver, was the youngest when he started in Colonial Williamsburg. She started volunteering officially at the age of 7, although she has been involved in programs since she was 5 years old.

“My mother made me (start volunteering),” he said. “I really have no choice in it.”

But once he started, he did not regret it. Putting on his costume felt like wearing a superhero outfit, he said:

“I didn’t see it because I was describing someone from the past. I just see it (like) it’s a uniform, or like a costume like every kid thinks about on Halloween.

Adam Canaday drives the Royal Governor's Train during the parade in February 2022. Canaday is a former youth volunteer returning to join Colonial Williamsburg as an employee.  Courtesy of the Williamsburg Colonial Foundation

One of the best parts, all three employees agree, is getting to know your fellow young volunteers, and building friendships that have lasted for years. Canaday and Cross have known each other for at least 20 years, Canaday said, when he met Adams about 15 years ago when they both lined up in the Jamestown High School band.

According to Cross, he never actually left Colonial Williamsburg. After dropping out of the youth interpreter program, he began volunteering as an adult and then joined as a full-time employee around 2015. Now, he is a leather trouser apprentice in the fifth and final degree of his apprenticeship. When that was done, he would be considered a journeyman.

“I grew up knowing that I wanted to do something with storytelling, with history, and making things with my hands,” he says. “Colonial Williamsburg is the best place for me to do that. I just decided that’s what I want to do.”

Canaday said he was away from the area for less than a year, and then he “jumped right back in”.

“(It was like), ‘Dude, I’m not going back to Colonial Williamsburg for a while, I’m going to try and see what the real world is like,’” he recalls. “And then I applied to maybe six or seven different jobs and no one ever called me back. I put Colonial Williamsburg in and they called back within 30 minutes, so I was like, ‘Well, I guess I’m going back to Colonial Williamsburg.’”

Adams, who spent the longest time, went to James Madison University, where he majored in Italian, before moving to Italy to teach English. When he moved back, Adams, who spent eight years at Fifes and Drums, began volunteering at Colonial Williamsburg, which would later develop into a full-time position as lead drum instructor.

For aspiring young volunteers, Cross, Canaday and Adams have lots of suggestions.

“Be open, number one,” says Canaday.

“You don’t have to really like history,” Cross added. “You could really like history, but maybe you love music, or maybe you think drawing is cool, or gardening is your forte, or you really like to read. Maybe you want to brush up on your public speaking skills. Get a few volunteer hours under your belt. It looks great on a resume.

According to Adams, this was “an opportunity to do something really unique.”

“Most places don’t have an opportunity like this where you can learn those hand skills and honestly preserve those different types of skills,” he says. “…not only will you meet lots of other people who are eager to help you study, but you’ll also meet guests who just might make you even more passionate about what you do.”

As young volunteers in 1998, Devon and Adam Canaday are seen taking a break during a production of an electronic field trip

According to Bomar, having interpreters and young volunteers provides “a finer example of 18th century life” for guests.

“There are children here in the historic area, in the capital, working outside, in the countryside,” he said. “It also gives our young visitors someone to relate to. … It’s a great experience to volunteer, learn responsibility, learn how to work with others.

Bomar’s own children, Abigail and William, both volunteered at Colonial Williamsburg when they were young, with Abigail volunteering at Powell House and William taking part in Fifes and Drums.

Currently, there are around 15 youth volunteers, and the foundation hopes to bring in 40-50 new volunteers. Costumes for youth volunteers are provided, and participating children receive ample training in understanding program policies and procedures, how to wear costumes properly, and more.

While potential volunteers can apply year-round, Colonial Williamsburg tends to recruit right after the fair, says Bomar.

With a new generation of young volunteers hopefully on the way, employees like Canaday, Cross and Adams are reminded of their childhoods spent in Colonial Williamsburg, and what they learned during those eventful years.

“We impacted the children who would become Colonial Williamsburg ambassadors,” Adams said. “… I know that (volunteering in Colonial Williamsburg) really shaped me at a very important point in my life, 10 to 18 years.

“I’ve had so much fun watching these kids start at such a young age and turn into young adults throughout their time here.”

According to Cross, it is an “honor” to have the opportunity to help shape the next generation.

“I think the cool part is that we can potentially help not only our museum but other museums and other public institutions,” he said. “That’s what caught my eye: this is not just our museum, it’s a public institution across the United States.”

Applications can also be submitted online at bit.ly/3InPqiT for Historic Area Patriots at Play and Historic Trades and Skills, and at colonialwilliamsburg.org/learn/on-site-opportunities/join-fifes-drums for Fifes and Drums.

Sian Wilkerson, [email protected], 757-342-6616

Source link

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *