Hi everyone, and Happy 2020!
The sixth of YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff is Community and Family Engagement. YALSA is currently exploring partnerships with organizations that can provide resources to teens and those working with teens in libraries that can be beneficial to both elements of these partnerships. An example of this is the nonprofit organization Back 2 School America. This group, founded in Chicago in 2010, provides no-cost school supplies to kids and teens who would otherwise go without. One of the elements of the school kit is a “Note of Inspiration” that is included in order to both inspire recipients and personalize the kit. At the YALSA Symposium in November in Memphis, attendees were asked to write a Note of Inspiration to be included in kits to be distributed to middle and high schoolers.
Matthew Kurtzman, founder and CEO of Back 2 School America, describes the value of these school supplies kits: “What’s important about this is we not only literally are giving the kids the tools they need to do their work, but we’re also impacting their self worth, their self-esteem.” It’s critical that students not start their school years at a deficit from their classmates, both lacking core materials to do their work, and also feeling lesser than their classmates and suffering the need to ask their teachers or peers for basic supplies. The organization works directly with school systems, but also other organizations such as the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, Operation Homefront in support of military families, and others, who can best identify the kids and teens who are most in need of the supplies.
For many students, this is not only a need at the beginning of the school year. For reasons such as evictions or other displacement, intentional relocation, homelessness, or simply running out of the supplies provided, some students are in need of these items at times throughout the school year. Lists of required school supplies have grown longer and more expensive for families as school budgets have stagnated in many parts of the country. What was once provided by the school or generous teachers may no longer be available, putting the onus of these costs on the students.
The work of the Back 2 School America organization mirrors YALSA’s mission statement “to alleviate challenges teens face… especially those with the greatest needs.”As we explore ways to help teens on the path to successful and fulfilling lives, we can partner with community organizations who are helping teens in a variety of ways. We can focus on what we bring to a partnership and allow these partners to impart their expertise as well.
A free webinar on Community and Family Engagement is available to explore other issues and ideas regarding this competency.
Thanks for reading, and thank you for all the work you do for and with teens.
Todd Krueger, YALSA President 2019-2020 | Twitter: @toddbcpl