Friday, August 31, 2007
Carlisle teens are firmly in charge of TOGA
TOGA — in Carlisle it is neither a Roman garment nor a scene from the raucous '60s movie, Animal House.
TOGA is the acronym for Teens of Gleason Advisors, a group of middle schoolers who launched their organization this summer. Reference and young adult librarian, Sharon Colvin, who first proposed the formation of the group, knew of other libraries with similar teen organizations. "It's a way for kids to be more involved in their community," she said. "Teens in Carlisle don't have a teen center or a place of their own to gather," Colvin pointed out. Gleason Library offers a warm and welcoming home for teen and pre-teen activities.
TOGA's first activity for their peers was a costume party held at the library after hours last Friday. Although it took several meetings all summer long to organize, it was a success. "A lot more people showed up than I thought would," reported eighth-grader and TOGA member Amelia Cox. About 15 teens attended, along with several parent volunteers who "were very much appreciated," noted Colvin. Although many hours had been devoted to planning the event, Cox said, "I liked the way, although we had a schedule, we didn't really follow it. Basically it was cool to have control over what happened."
Reflecting on the party the day after, Colvin said, "I'm so proud of the kids for being flexible and for overcoming last- minute changes and working together." The teens staged an impromptu dance contest in which break dancing alternated with the tango, with music streaming from a radio. "The kids are fully capable of creating their own entertainment," said Colvin approvingly.
More than parties
TOGA members have had more serious pursuits than planning parties. In their organizational phase early this summer, the teens drew up behavioral contracts for themselves and their
peers. The contracts specified the level of commitment required, stressed respectful attitudes to all, limited cell phone use in meetings, and established guidelines on member responsibilities. This formal activity encouraged the youthful members to feel serious about their involvement in TOGA.
The group receives financial support from the Friends of Gleason Library as well as a one-year federal Equal Access grant that begins this fall. Part of the grant will cover larger purchases and will assist in fundraising.
The "Advisors" part of TOGA will kick in this fall, when members take an active role in advising librarians on acquisitions for young adults. Colvin especially looks forward to their advice on materials she knows little about, "Japanese manga and comic books," for example. In addition, they will have input into rearranging the young adult space on the second floor of the library, a small area that will benefit from the teens' own ideas on new colors and furniture.
Teens in charge
"It's a lot of fun to be in charge," said Cox, "and we really are in charge of TOGA. Sharon [Colvin] is really, really nice, so it's not like you have an ogre telling you to get everything done."
Colvin is equally enthusiastic about her group: "In TOGA opinions are respected, and the low-key environment encourages participation." Of this summer's membership, Colvin said, "They really are a great group of kids. I can't wait for their next event.
TOGA planning for the fall will be under way soon. Students in the fifth through eighth grades who would like to be involved or receive more information can contact Colvin at firstname.lastname@example.org..
© 2007 The Carlisle Mosquito