Youth just happy their safe place is open
Closing youth centre would have been "devastating"
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Saturday, Jan 19, 2013 06:00 am
It’s 3:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, and there are already a dozen young people at the Youth Community Centre at Grandin Park Plaza, lounging in chairs, shooting pool, chatting amongst themselves and, in one case, chasing people around with a wet mop.
It has been barely a month since the youth centre announced it would stay open in 2013, bringing to an end six months of uncertainty after the community services advisory board told city council the centre should no longer receive more than $100,000 in grant funding, money it had received for more than a decade previous.
For Corrie Ayers, 14, the thought of losing her “second home,” as she calls it was terrifying. Transplanted two years ago from Florida, Ayers says openly that since she arrived in St. Albert, she never felt like she fit in with her peers. That changed when she found the youth centre.
“If you just want a safe place to hang out with your friends, you can do that,” Ayers says. “They all treat us like equals. It’s not like anyone’s being discriminated against or anything.”
Allyson Lawrie-White, also 14, has been coming to the youth centre since April. She too had problems making friends at school.
“So I decided to come (to the youth centre) and I met a lot of friends who go to my school, so then I got friends at school,” Lawrie-White says, beaming.
Her experiences at the youth centre made Liam, Lawrie-White’s 12-year-old brother, curious and towards the end of June, 2012, he too started dropping by. He discovered he likes to shoot pool, but more importantly, he has a place where he can spend time with friends he might not otherwise see.
“All my friends go here and some of them live quite a distance away so this is pretty much the only place I can hang out with them,” Liam says.
The thought of the youth centre closing, which looked likely in August, scared a lot of people, said Ayers. She and others started writing letters to city council in an effort to drum up support.
“(Young people) were devastated,” Ayers says. “I remember comforting one of my friends. She was crying because of it. She loves this place.”
Liam and his sister both say if the youth centre had closed, neither would have anywhere to go or anything to do.
“I wouldn’t go anywhere,” says Lawrie-White. “I’d just be at home all the time. I’d have nothing to do or no one to really hang out with.”
Ayers sums up what might have happened to other youth who frequent the youth centre.
“If the youth centre wasn’t really here, I can say a lot of kids would be going down that wrong path,” Ayers says.
But the youth centre pressed for more city funding during budget discussions in November and December, presenting council with a lean budget, a proposal to reduce its space at the mall and a raft of testimonials and videos. It had the desired effect, with council boosting the money it gives the youth centre annually to make up for the grant funding it lost last year.
“It was amazing,” says Lawrie-White. “I was at home and my Dad told me because he read it in the Gazette and I was super happy.”
“I wanted to throw a party,” Liam laughs.
The youth centre didn’t have to reduce its space in the end, as their landlords simply agreed to reduce their rent. But the youth who visit are just happy it will stay open.
“If it wasn’t here, then you never know. I could turn out like one of those bad kids and I don’t want that,” Ayers says.