Grown-ish workshop series at South Library prepares teens for adulthood

Many teens entering adulthood find the experience overwhelming. School can only prepare kids for so much, and they often aren’t taught about life lessons they’ll encounter as young adults.

The Grown-ish workshop series—named and modeled after the popular television show—is held the third Friday of every month at Memphis Public Libraries’ South Library branch. The branch sits at 1929 South Third Street, part of Southgate Shopping Center. South Library’s Director of Teen Programming Dominique Jennes came up with the concept, which is to shield area teenagers from some of the pitfalls that beset the characters on the show.

“Looking at the show, you see all these teenagers going straight to college,” said Jennes. “They weren’t ready—I don’t think—mentally. Seeing all the stresses they had to deal with in their first year of college... let's help our teens have a better shift into adulthood.”

Some neighborhood teens are already facing adult-like pressures, a common problem in historically underserved communities in Memphis and elsewhere. The causes can include anything from being the oldest child in a single-parent home to being a household breadwinner.

“For whatever reason, they take on the role of an adult earlier than a lot of others do,” said Jamie Griffin, creative outreach assistant director for Memphis Public Libraries. “There are things they are discovering and finding out about. The Grown-ish program tries to help them identify some of those things prior to them happening.”

Marking Valentine’s Day, the most recent Grown-ish event was on February 18. The session helped teens cover the rocky terrain of dating. Like all sessions, it featured a speaker knowledgeable on the topic.

“I think we can all use some dating skills,” Jennes said. “[We taught them some of] the different things that go into a relationship—how to date, how to [handle] the other things that come with relationships.”

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But the lessons aren’t just about romance and candy hearts. Adulthood is full of responsibilities, and the program intends to reflect that. The first session, held in November, offered insight into career choices.

“[For example,] we had different officers from the Canadian Railroad Station to show them some options they have as far as careers,” said Jennes. “A lot of the information we were giving, [the teens] didn’t know about.”

The next session will be March 18, all about getting ready for college. Students will learn about loans, choosing a school, and preparing for the new world of higher education. Future seminars will cover ground like financial literacy, culinary skills, voting, and resume building.

Grown-ish is part of the expanding selection of programming available to teens at Memphis Public Libraries.

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Youth Action Councils were created in five library branches last year with the help of nonprofit Bridges USA. The councils conduct research with area teens to find out what they want their neighborhood library to offer. Four more Youth Action Councils are currently in the works, with a goal to have them in every Memphis Public Libraries branch.

“It’s not just about coming in and checking out a book, or reading, or whatever,” said Griffin. “Hearing from people within the community, they have brought [more issues] to our attention—dealing with mental health, for example. That’s something that we haven’t touched on much at the library in the past, as it dealt with teens.”

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Teens also have access to the 8,300-square-foot CLOUD901 teen innovation center and its equipment at the Benjamin Hooks Central branch. They can work on projects, collaborate, develop critical thinking skills and problem solve. There are smaller teen innovation centers at several other branches, including South Library.

“This community needs the library,” Jennes said. “Because we come across so many people who may not have had the different opportunities growing up that we offer now at the library.”
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Read more articles by Jim Coleman.

Jim Coleman is a freelance writer, covering a variety of topics from high school sports, community news and small business. He has written for different news organizations over the past 20 years, including The Commercial Appeal, Community Weeklies, Lexington Herald-Leader and The Albuquerque Journal.