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Cadillac Wexford Public Library offers year-round teen space

A sign at the corner of S. Lake Street and W. Crippen Street for the Cadillac Wexford Public Library.
Draya Raby
/
WCMU
A sign at the corner of S. Lake Street and W. Crippen Street for the Cadillac Wexford Public Library.

For 12 years, Emily Thompson has been working with local teens through the Cadillac Wexford Public Library.

According to a Middle School Journal article, having spaces for a community's youth creates a “safer and enhanced community, reinforce and support the cultural identities of all youth, and serve to become the vanguard of teachers’ planning, strategies, and classroom work.”

When Emily Thompson started working with teens at the Cadillac Wexford Public Library 12 years ago, she noticed the need for them to have their own space.

“Teen Tuesday came out of giving them a space to meet up and meet new people while maybe doing something creative,” says Thompson. “Not pushing them to participate in the craft but ‘here’s a safe space where you can be’.”

Every summer, the library chooses a theme for their Teen Summer Reading program. This year, the theme is Adventure at Your Library.
Draya Raby
/
WCMU
Every summer, the library chooses a theme for their Teen Summer Reading program. This year, the theme is Adventure at Your Library.

Thompson says, the library’s teen space focuses on giving them someplace to be where they can be themselves and “be teens”. The space also allows them to meet other kids without being out in the community and exposed to things they shouldn't be.

Wexford County, and much of the surrounding area, is classified as low-income. Low-income communities have a greater need for community services and supportive resources because of the increased stress that life in the area can bring.

According to Thompson, much of the need for a teen space is simply created because the space they are growing in can't provide everything they need.

“We get a lot of kids who are homeschooled or coming from out of town- maybe they live in Lake City or Mesick- these smaller areas that if they don't or if they aren't going to the public school, where are they going to make these connections?” says Thompson.

Thompson also says the teen space is used by kids from a variety of backgrounds and has given them the ability to discuss and debate some more serious topics like income.

“They were talking about food stamps and there were some kids saying some negative things and there was another person like ‘hey, the only way my family survives is because of food stamps and we’re friends so maybe think of what you’re really saying and who that applies for’,” says Thompson. “I’m not attesting that to Teen Tuesday, but it is a really cool way for kids of all backgrounds to get together and find their people.”

Teen Tuesdays take place every Tuesday year-round. The program is set up as a drop-in space where kids can do a craft, read a book, hangout with friends or participate in a themed activity for the day.

Thompson provides a basket of craft supplies at the Teen Tuesday events; she says one of the most popular crafts is bracelet making.
Draya Raby
/
WCMU
Thompson provides a basket of craft supplies at the Teen Tuesday events; she says one of the most popular crafts is bracelet making.

Thompson says, 20 to 30 teens visit the library throughout a Teen Tuesday event. “Some kids have a whole routine,” says Thompson. “They’ll come in and meet with their friends for maybe a half hour, might not participate in the activity but it is a gathering place, and some kids are there for the full time and they are crafting so it’s great.”

According to Thompson, word-of-mouth between kids has been Teen Tuesday's best advertisement. She says the crafts and activities are based on requests from the kids, so it continues to be a place that they want to spend their time.

Draya Raby is a newsroom intern for WCMU based at the Cadillac News.
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