New mentorship programs for youth

Our library’s vision is to empower every voice in our community, and our Middle & High School Services Team is doing just that for students this year. We’re excited to offer three new ways for youth in grades 6-12 to build relationships, learn with their peers and mentors, and grow in their schoolwork, job readiness, health, relationships, and overall confidence and self-awareness.

Mentoring for young men with YourPassion1st

Youth empowerment organization YourPassion1st is now offering male students in grades 6-12 a weekly group mentorship program at the Main Library.

The Access Granted Male Mentor Program aims to improve outcomes for young men through academic and social support. This includes quality mentoring and coaching, challenging and engaging curricula, a team approach, and strong ties to family and community.

“Young people who are surrounded by a variety of opportunities for positive encounters engage in less risky behavior and ultimately show evidence of higher rates of successful transitions into adulthood,” says Chris Thomas, Executive Director of YourPassion1st.

Chris Thomas (right), Executive Director of YourPassion1st, and Roberta Bernice Logwood (left), Program Director at YourPassion1st, facilitate a new mentorship program for male students at the Main Library. Photos by Paul Goyette.

‘A new & liberating form of education’

Throughout 2023, YourPassion1st will facilitate weekly meetings and outings at the library on Wednesdays from 4 to 5:30 pm. Ideally, students would attend each week, but they can join in anytime.

“Our program will allow young men in grades 6-12 to experience a new and liberating form of education that is directly related to the imperatives of their lives and communities,” Thomas says. “And it will address the opportunity gap and learning loss caused by the pandemic.”

Chris Thomas of YourPassion1st facilitates the first meeting of the Access Granted Male Mentor Program at the library.
Photos by Paul Goyette.

‘A wonderful collaboration’

Throughout the year, students will be surveyed on their confidence, self-awareness, and academic grades. Over the summer, when the weekly meetings take a pause, mentors will have three check-ins with students. And at the end of the yearlong program, students and parents will be interviewed.

“This mentor program will help empower young men,” says Latonia Jackson, the library’s Manager of Middle and High School Services. “As the library builds on goals of creating welcoming spaces and service models for high school and middle schoolers, it is also prioritizing a space where knowledge is gained and celebrated and learning is relevant, engaging, and fun.”

The program is made possible through a $25,000 grant from the Illinois State Library, which covers expenses including field trips, student incentives, and YourPassion1st staff time.

“What a wonderful collaboration,” says Juanta Griffin, the library’s Multicultural Learning Coordinator. “I know this age group can be challenging as a community member, colleague, and mother of teens and tweens. Thank you for meeting my kiddos where they are and creating a safe and engaging space for them.”

Mentoring for all with A Greater Good Foundation

And for students of any gender in grades 6-12, we’re partnering with A Greater Good Foundation on a weekly group mentoring program. Starting January 24 through May 30, the You, Me, We: Co-Ed Mentoring Program will meet at the Main Library every other Tuesday, 4-5:30 pm.

Staff from A Greater Good Foundation have worked extensively on previous restorative justice initiatives and programs for youth at the library. In this new mentoring program, they will provide a comprehensive Restorative Social Emotional program that will help students in grade 6-12 gain self-awareness and build healthy relationships and community.

Plus, Tea Talk for all middle schoolers

One more opportunity, just for middle schoolers of any gender: Every Tuesday, 4-5 pm, in the Main Library Middle School Space, we’re having Tea Talk.

It’s a place for students in grades 6-8 to drink tea while getting the “tea” they need to succeed, along with an Oak Park Township Youth Interventionist and library Middle School Services staff.