Shnay: Park Forest teens, library officials create teen center
By Jerry Shnay Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org January 9, 2014 3:30PM
Updated: February 13, 2014 6:09AM
Psst! Don’t tell anyone, but most teenagers are almost like you and me.
They like to catch up on the latest news. Same here.
Those with cellphones enjoy sending messages or conversing with friends and family. OK on that one, too. Been there, done that.
Most days, a large number of teens congregate at the Park Forest Public Library after getting out from school and quickly turned it into a makeshift youth center. That became a problem for the staff and other patrons. There is little room for perhaps 15 to 20 active teens in the library.
When the teens were in the adult reading area, the ambient noise level of chatter and cellphones became too much for some library patrons, some of whom, we surmise, later gathered at bars and complained about the noise levels at the library in strident tones that could barely be heard over deafening music.
Be that as it may, the library staff needed a solution to the problem of noisy after-school arrivals. Youth Service Coordinator Adina McCullough and the library’s Teen Advisory Board worked through the question of where the teens could meet after school.
How about Dining on the Green, Park Forest’s downtown banquet facility owned by the village? Their idea was proposed by the library board to village officials, and the village board approved the plan last month.
From now until June, a Teen Community Center will be open from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the building on Main Street, and it won’t be just for meeting and greeting.
Tryouts and rehearsals will be held Tuesdays in January for an all-teen-produced play commemorating Black History Month in February, with input from the teens as to future programs.
Wednesdays will be devoted to discussions of civic participation and both the rights and duties of citizens.
And there are plans for a Teen Café on Mondays and a Thursday session focused on working with anyone wanting to learn the intricacies of phone apps and all that new-fangled technology.
“This will be a place we can work with each other,” said 14-year-old Cantrell Lewis, a student at Forest Trail Middle School and a member of the library’s Teen Advisory Board. “The library was too crowded. We needed a place to go, and everyone liked the idea.”
“Giving the teens a place to go, giving them after-school programs also gives them a sense of ownership,” McCullough said. “They have to make it work.”
Library Director Barbara Osuch hopes the program will grow with the seasons and also foresees a day in the near future when the library board has a teen representative. That should be interesting.
Those resolutions made at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1 were meant to be kept, we thought.
There will be less time in front of the television set, fewer hours looking at emails that should be deleted, more veggies on the plate, much less pasta, a lot of exercise and a long list of “to-do” things that never got done before.
That was the plan. Then Mother Nature (who ticked her off?) gave us all that snow and those bitterly cold temperatures during the first week of the new year.
The desk on which the computer sits — the one used to write all of these columns — needs a thorough cleaning.
That includes those sticky pieces of paper with mysterious phone numbers and the receipts for six-month-old bill payments.
That cleaning will be done, and the January promises kept when the snow and cold leaves.