The Lake Forest High School Transition Program is designed to prepare students with disabilities, aged 18-22, with the “social, vocational, and personal management skills” necessary to become an engaged and supportive component of their communities. One of the most helpful activities for students in the program is volunteering. Volunteering gives these students the chance to give back to their communities in a meaningful way, but also serves as an important tool to add structure and organization to their days. However, finding a volunteering location that is accommodating of every student can be a challenge. The complication can be as small as the requirement to wear an uncomfortable hair net, or as large as the entire task having too many moving parts for a student with disabilities.

It turns out, the perfect volunteering opportunity for students in the Transition Program was only a town away. Transition Students have been making the trip up the road to Bernie’s Book Bank in Lake Bluff for more than a year now, and there is no reason to believe that journey will stop anytime soon.

Megan (Favorite childhood book: The Magic School Bus) is a teaching assistant in the Transition Program. She explains that the types of jobs that Bernie’s Book Bank offers volunteers are extremely accommodating of people with disabilities. Whether it is sorting, leveling, packing or stickering, each student in the program can find something they are both capable of and enjoy doing. Add in a welcoming environment with music the students enjoy, and a friendly, understanding staff in the Processing Center, and it becomes the ideal location for Transition Students to volunteer.

Although Bernie’s Book Bank serves a very practical purpose to the staff of the Transition Program, the students each have their own reasons they enjoy coming back to Bernie’s Book Bank. Marina (Favorite childhood book: Clifford The Big Red Dog or “that book where you feel the fur”), relishes the competitive rush from stickering more books than anyone else in her session. As well as this, she can’t help but appreciate the nostalgia she gets from finding her favorite childhood books as she volunteers. Liam (Favorite childhood book: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory) says that although he enjoys volunteering at Bernie’s no matter what, it’s much more fun going with his friends from the program.

It is not possible to talk about Bernie’s Book Bank and the Transition Program without Bernie’s biggest fan, Allie (Favorite childhood book: “Anything with princesses”). Although while she is at Bernie’s Book Bank, she is known by her teachers and classmates as “The Stickering Machine”. Marina has long since given up trying to out-sticker her, and it would be foolish of anyone else to try. The repetitive nature of this task is something that Allie has grown extremely fond of, and seeing it first-hand is an incredible experience. Megan, in charge of scheduling out Allie’s days, says that when Allie sees the Bernie’s Book Bank icon later in her week, she tries as hard as she can to move it up as early in the week as possible.

Bernie’s Book Bank offers the students and staff of the LFHS program a place to take full advantage of the opportunities that volunteering gives people with disabilities. In return, Bernie’s Book Bank receives the efforts of an incredibly dedicated group of volunteers, who have done more than their share in helping disadvantaged children read their way to a quality education.