The Cortez Public Library has been selected to receive a competitive grant from the American Library Association to host a reading and discussion program for underserved and at-risk youth.
The library will partner with students and staff at Southwest Open School (SWOS) on the project theme “Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide.” The Cortez partnership was one of only 77 from across the nation, and one of only two from Colorado, to be chosen for the program.
“So many teens in our community struggle with issues of violence and suicide, and much of the time, adults are painfully unaware of what they’re going through,” said Alissa Baxstrom, the library staff member who will lead the project. “We’re thrilled to be able to use literature to start these important conversations with our young people.”
The American Library Association was seeking libraries to work with “organizations that serve at-risk youth, such as alternative high schools.” Baxstrom said the library’s collaboration with SWOS exactly fits the association’s goals. The public charter school is an Alternative Education Campus, as designated by the Colorado Department of Education. More than 90 percent of SWOS students are considered “at risk.”
Rebecca Gostlin, the behavioral health provider at the school’s health clinic, will work with Baxstrom to facilitate discussion events during March and April. Gostlin started a Student Wellness Council at SWOS at the beginning of the school year. Wellness Council members will make up the core of the project group, with other interested students filling the remaining openings.
The book titles — selected by librarian advisors and humanities scholars — were chosen to resonate with reluctant readers who struggle with complex issues such as incarceration, violence and poverty. They are: “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher; “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini; and “Romeo and Juliet” (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels)” illustrated by Matt Weigle.
As the project director, Baxstrom will attend a 2-day training workshop in Chicago in early March.
Since its inception in 2006, American Library Association Great Stories Club has reached 670 libraries in 49 states and more than 30,000 young adults (ages 13 to 21). It is made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Cortez library provides information and recreation through its collection of books, audio books, movies, computers, and programs available to all members of the community.
Southwest Open School was founded in 1986 with 20 students as a “second chance” school. After reorganization in 1998, SWOS became a charter school with Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 school district serving as its authorizing agent. It has evolved into a school of choice with current enrollment of 144 students.
For more information about the Great Stories Club contact Alissa Baxstrom at the library.