TAG Teen Program

TAG Teen Program

Elsie S. Hogan Community Library
207 West Maley Street
Willcox, AZ 85643
Phone: 520-766-4250
Fax: 520-384-0126
E-Mail: willcox_library@yahoo.com
URL: http://www.cityofwillcox.org/library/services.shtml

Focus: Humanities, Multidisciplinary, Photography

Annual Number Participating: 25

Ages: Middle School, High School

Annual Budget: $700

Funders:

“Bringing preteens and teens into the library can be a challenge. In the small rural town of Willcox, Arizona, the Elsie S. Hogan Community Library has become the hub for an active intellectual and social community known as the TAG (Teen Advisory Group) Teen Program.

TAG’s most high-profile effort is a full-color, 40-page magazine published three times a year. “They said they wanted to do something that was worthy of being on a newsstand,” recalls Tom Minor, the library’s director. With support from library staff, that’s just what they’ve accomplished.

Teens plan, write, and edit the magazine—which includes music and film reviews, poetry, fiction, photographic essays, and opinion pieces—and design it using library computers outfitted with publishing software.

These young adults gain analytical and verbal skills as they create, defend, and critique submissions. “I’ve seen students who’ve gone from meek little sit-in-the-back people to being chief editors, with a roll-up-your-sleeves, get-things-done leadership style,” comments TAG mentor Gayle Berry. The participants cover the full cost of the publication by selling ads to local businesses. “That means our community of 3,900 people ponies up the money to print enough copies so every teen can get a free one. That’s a significant chunk of money for a small community,” Berry points out.

When they’re not focusing on the magazine, TAG participants devote their weekly, after-school meetings to devising other ways to address the dearth of cultural opportunities in this low-income ranching community 80 miles from Tucson. Students hold discussions of topical books and films. They also dramatize O. Henry’s short stories and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels by creating scripts for seated readings. In addition, invited experts occasionally join the group for collegial discussions on a wide range of subjects, from Hohokam archeology to the impact of music on the brain.

The TAG Program counters a sense of powerlessness and defeatism that is common among youth from underserved, rural areas. “By giving them a leadership role in defining and carrying out the program, they’ve learned, ‘We can affect this, maybe we can affect our future. Maybe we have more power than we realize,’ ”Berry notes. Library staff estimate that up to 75 percent of TAG participants go on to college.”

“After I took the chance to put some of my own fiction stories and poetry in the magazine, it felt so amazing to have people who I knew, and some I didn’t know, tell me that they liked what I wrote. But I realized it really didn’t matter what other people thought, as long as I valued my own work.”

Molly Martin Senior Editor, TAG Magazine