Nearly 20 young people from Upper Darby Free Library Municipal Branch’s Teen Reading Lounge and the Upper Darby mayor’s youth advisory committee gathered safely outdoors for a special virtual meeting with Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05).
With phones and tablets in hand, the teens engaged Scanlon in an hour-long conversation about issues they were concerned about: education, gun violence, the environment, and mental health issues.
Scanlon gave thoughtful answers and offered some of her personal political journey, including her early concern for environmental issues based on experiences growing up as a teenager in Watertown, New York near the Canadian border.
Teen Reading Lounge (TRL) is PHC’s award-winning, nontraditional book club for youth with sites across the state. Participants work together to co-create the reading list and, with support from trained facilitators, design creative projects and organize events, like the Scanlon meeting, that connect themes in their books to tangible action in their communities.
“Through TRL, our teens have been participating in local governance by having six teens serve on three different Upper Darby township committees.” said Jean Kosha, Teen Reading Lounge coordinator and library assistant at Upper Darby Free Library Municipal Branch. “Meeting with Representative Scanlon gave them a chance to ask her about national and world issues important to them.”
Scanlon concluded her virtual visit by inviting the young people to join her Congressional Youth Cabinet (CYC), a nonpartisan initiative to provide high school students in Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District with an opportunity to learn more about Congress and the policymaking process. Members of the CYC get to share their ideas about solving pressing issues facing young Americans and have the opportunity to connect with other elected officials, peers, and community leaders.
“Through reading and discussing different perspectives and social issues, Teen Reading Lounge ultimately aims to nurture empathic young leaders and engaged citizens,” said Julia Terry, PHC’s education officer. “These young peoples’ concern for their community, humanity at large, and the environment was clear in the depth and maturity of their questions and the agency and commitment they bring to their work.”