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Forced to isolate at home, sheltering against a deadly virus amidst a national racial reckoning, and disconnected from their communities, teens have struggled during the pandemic. The Teen Advisory Group at the library wanted to provide mental health relief to local youth by offering themed monthly supply packs.  

The group submitted a proposal to Generator Z, and their idea was awarded $24,000 by a panel of youth “generators” from Southeast Michigan and New York. The funds will enable the library to provide paid teen internships during the school year and allow TAG to expand the outreach and distribution of the subscription packs.  

When recipients open the pack, we hope they feel that despite the dreadful situation COVID has brought, they know they still have the support of others in the community.

-Ayesha

TAG kicked off the project in January with funds from YDL’s program budget, and provided packs to 22 people the first month. Each month, more teens signed up to receive them. Knowing mental health support is what teens in our community need most, according to the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation Youth Council 2020 Needs Assessment, TAG hoped to distribute more packs each month to make an impact. So they explored ways to generate more funding.  

Three TAG members pitched the idea at the Neutral Zone’s annual Youth Driven Spaces Conference and were awarded $900. This helped them continue the service through the summer. “The teens were so excited to be able to continue with this project, but even more so, that their idea resonated with other teens in the community, who voted for them to receive this money at the YDS Conference,” said YDL Librarian and TAG advisor Kelly Scott, who attended the conference with the teens.  

TAG wanted to bring light to as many teens as possible, especially those who don’t typically use the library. Now, with Generator Z funding, TAG plans to provide at least 100 packs each month. About half of the packs will be distributed at the library and half will find homes through different youth-serving organizations in Ypsilanti, such as the RAHS clinic, the Corner Health Center, and Ozone House. This way, people who don’t have transportation have access to these free supplies.  

TAG members know discrimination, racism, and climate change impact mental health. Each month the pack is centered around a new theme. Recent themes have included environmental awareness, LGBTQIA+ Pride, and Juneteenth.

Teens who sign up for a self-care pack don’t have to opt in every month. Instead, they can pick the themes that fit their interests to pamper themselves, learn more about topics they are passionate about, or indulge in stimulating activities. 

The items in each pack have been chosen by TAG to provide a sense of escape. Packs include a book, art supplies, healthy snacks, and other items for teens to enjoy and learn new skills. Motivational buttons and relaxing self-care indulgences provide positive distractions to help improve teens’ mental health. 

TAG You’re It is a teen-led discussion-based podcast that aims to engage youth in topics pertinent to our lives. The topics covered are loosely linked to monthly teen subscription packs, curated by the Teen Advisory Group (TAG) at the Ypsilanti District Library.

For the part-time internships that the funding will support, teens will be paid stipends during the school year to create podcasts, blog posts, social media content, and in-person and virtual meet-ups to bring people together and make positive change in the community.  

Launched in 2020, Generator Z is a teen-led initiative to reimagine the future of afterschool. More than 1,000 ‘Generators‘ from across Southeast Michigan and Western New York shared their afterschool experience and insight online. Afterschool providers stepped up with ideas to turn that teen insight into action. Over 90 providers across both regions received $4 million to bring their ideas to life in the next year and Ypsilanti District Library is one of them!

Generator Z is driven by teens and powered by Lakeshore Connections with support from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. Learn more at www.generatorz.org.

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