School’s Out! For Calgary Teens

The Cause

School’s Out is a fun, casual program hosted at the Calgary Public Library that is open to all teens during the critical hours immediately after school. It provides a safe space and an opportunity for teens to work on their social development in an environment (the Library) that is known as a welcoming, free and accessible public space for all.
The program is designed to support the principles of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Positive Youth Development. Through the program, Library guides and volunteers support teens to identify personal strengths, practice positive self-talk, and develop healthy stress management techniques, all incorporated into fun activities.
The program also provides healthy nutritious snacks as a key component of fostering a positive supportive environment. It costs about $3,500 to provide snacks over the school year at one Library location. Food is a critical component of the program: many young Calgarians attending are homeless or at-risk and struggle to get enough to eat, particularly nutritious food; learning outcomes and behaviour improve when a healthy snack is provided; sharing food is an opportunity to build lessons about nutrition into the program; food provides an incentive for teens to attend and engage in the other social development activities of the program.
During 2015/2016, the Library ran School’s Out for a total of four days a week each at Central Library and Forest Lawn Library. We are asking Field Law to grant $7,000 in order for us to be able to continue to supply nutritious food on all four days, at both locations, for this successful and in-demand program during the 2016/17 school year.

Who Will it Benefit?

Field Law’s grant will support Calgary teens who look to the Library as a safe and welcoming place to find support, inspiration, and the opportunity for self-development. In 2015/16, there were over 1,680 visits to this program by Calgary teens at the two locations. We anticipate at least 1,750 visits to the program in the 2016/17 year.
Forest Lawn and Central Library were deliberately chosen as the locations for the School’s Out program because of their proximity to schools, social services and homeless shelters attended or utilized by vulnerable youth.
The teens who attend are engaged in designing the program and choosing activities in partnership with Library staff. For example some of the activities the teens have chosen to pursue include: making “Strength Stones” which are personalized stones they can carry with them to help them through tough moments and playing “Super Smash Brothers” tournaments to help relieve stress and frustration.
Activities are intended to be fun and engaging – tabletop and console gaming, arts & crafts, and technology activities like Ozobots (small robots that follow colour codes) – because that’s what draws the teens in. Library staff then use those activities as a portal to talk about the teens’ experiences and find ways to develop skills such as anger management, social skills, stress relief, and self-regulation. Having the opportunity to share nourishing food, engage in games, and find positive social interaction in a non-judgmental, welcoming environment supports teens’ self-esteem, problem-solving and stress management skills after they leave the Library. Having the program consistently available four days a week after school is also an important component of its success.