Skokie Public Library
Contact Name: Laurel Johnson, Ljohnson2@skokielibrary.info
Type of Initiative: Civil Society
Every day in our after school spaces, we work with large numbers of youth. Many students know one another as fellow “library kids,” but run in different social groups and may not have classes together. In the interest of building a sense of community among our regular after school crowds, we developed Neutral Zone, a weekly talking circle program for junior high students. Every Wednesday, teens gather to sit in a circle, practice compassionate listening, and speak from the heart on topics like identity development, friendship conflicts, and biggest fears. Our processes are intentional: using a talking piece ensures that each person can share without interruption, and going in a circle allows each person the opportunity to speak. Neutral Zone gives teens from different backgrounds and social groups the opportunity to form meaningful connections with peers, openly share their feelings, and learn how others cope with their issues and celebrate their successes. Participants have told us that they rarely have the opportunity to talk about how they really feel, and Neutral Zone gives them that space and time.