Beyond The Books

Teen Advisory members hosted Mind Your Brain, a mental health awareness event, at the Whittaker branch of the Ypsilanti District Library in May.
Teen Advisory members hosted Mind Your Brain, a mental health awareness event, at the Whittaker branch of the Ypsilanti District Library in May.

TAG makes a difference at Ypsilanti District Library

Ypsilanti teens are making a difference in their community, thanks to a program at the Ypsilanti District Library. The Teen Advisory Group, or TAG, gives area youth a say in library programming, along with valuable service opportunities that encourage teens to participate and make connections. “The mission of TAG is to give youth a voice in what happens here,” said Jodi Krahnke, head of Youth Services. “When I came here five years ago, there wasn’t much of an advisory, only a couple of people marginally involved. Basically, nobody was hanging out here. That was our first project: how to make this more friendly for teens.”

Youth-driven spaces

TAG members wrote a proposal to the Ann Arbor Area Youth Council, and presented their proposed changes to the library spaces. In 2017, they received $3000 in grant money to purchase furniture and supplies for the new teen space, in addition to tool kits for use at events.

“We were one of four arts organizations chosen to be part of the Youth Driven Spaces training. During that time we learned how to write a mission statement, develop a vision, and write an annual strategic plan. Going through those processes helped us realize that we need people to be comfortable here and have things they can do.”

A haven away from home

Jayden Monsur, 13, first learned of TAG while attending a baking class at the library. “Originally, my mother wanted me to join the group and I point-blank refused,” Monsur recalled. After talking with Jodi Krankhe and other TAG members, Monsur quickly changed her mind. “For me, TAG has become a sort of haven away from home,” Monsur said. The South Arbor Charter Academy eighth grader looks forward to working with group members at meetings and events. “I really like it when Jodi takes out big pieces of paper, writes topic questions on them, and we all answer them. It’s a great way to jumpstart discussions or brainstorm ideas.”

Raising awareness through social events

Last year, the group sponsored a mental health awareness event with experts to answer questions. They also offer fandom parties, murder mystery after-hours events, and art-related meet-ups, along with monthly Anime clubs and D and D clubs.
TAG members also learn valuable leadership skills, Kranhke added. “If it’s a large event, it gives them the chance to see the process of planning something, implementing it, and then evaluating it at the end. It’s really building a skill set that they can use to put on their resume or college application.”

TAG members also volunteer at library children’s programming, including labs and summer reading programs. In spring of 2020, TAG plans to host an Environmental Day. “A lot of people participate because they need the service hours, so doing something and feeling like they’re giving back is very important to them.” “We’re like the Power Rangers of community service,” Monsur added.

TAG is open to pre-teens and teens at both the Whittaker branch and the Michigan branch. Join any time by visiting, attending an event, or by calling Jodi Krahnke at 734-482-4110 x1304.