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Youth centre being mulled

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An idea of having a youth centre in Fort Frances has been brought forward and a small group is looking into the possibility.

June Caul, who sits on town council, said she and John Beaton recently sat down with a high school student who thought a youth centre is something the town needs.

“He told us about his hopes and dreams for something like this,” Coun. Caul noted.

“A place to go for kids who get left by the wayside in some respects.”

Caul said for students who don’t have anything like sports or music in their lives, they feel left out.

“They go to school, they get good grades, but they don’t get too involved in any of the activities,” she explained.

“They just feel like they’d like to be somewhere.”

Caul noted the student shared his vision, such as the centre having some computers, a foosball table, a kitchen area, and a quiet area to read or do homework.

“Of course, the big question is where are we going to get a place like this?” she remarked.

“It costs money and there is no money to be had.”

The pair got a small group together, including Leana Moffitt, program director with the Memorial Sports Centre, and Samantha Pearson and Elaine Fischer of the Northwestern Health Unit.

“We haven’t gotten to meet with the youth and we want it to be youth-driven,” stressed Pearson, adding they are looking at a centre geared toward those aged 12-18.

“So we were at a little bit of a standstill because without that input, we don’t know where to really go with it,” she admitted.

But starting in December, Erika Moffitt will be doing a student placement at the local health unit office through Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and will begin researching the idea.

“So doing the research that we need to assess what the needs would be for a youth centre around here,” Pearson explained.

Moffitt also has worked at a youth centre in Thunder Bay, so she has that background knowledge. She also will be finding out how other youth centres are funded, who is working at them, and how they run specifically.

“She is going to see what programs are already going on here and then also coming up with a survey of some type to hand out to students,” said Pearson, noting they would hope to have it out to the community in the new year.

“Seeing what kids would like to see in their community and what they are interested in,” she added. “Finding out what exactly is needed or if something is needed at all.

“There are quite a few youth programs that we’re aware of that are happening, but we just don’t know if the youth aren’t getting that information,” she mused.

Moffitt also will create a social media page about a potential youth centre or programs, as well as develop an ad for “The Recreator.”

“We want to do a program-based youth centre,” Pearson said. “We want it to go in that direction.

“We obviously aren’t going to have any funding for this until we have a program set in place.”

Caul noted they hope they can start by offering some activities in different areas of the town.

“Maybe life skills-type things that kids could go to and spend some time at,” she said.

“That’s the only way that it looks like we could even try to get some grants or something to try to push forward and make this a little bit bigger thing.”

Caul said even if someone had a building they would offer to use for a youth centre, there still are many additional costs of setting up and maintaining a space like that.

“It’s a very costly venture to even try to do,” Caul warned. “So that’s where it is right now.”

Caul said she talked to a lady who did a presentation at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario in Windsor and the town that she’s from had a school that closed that became a youth centre.

But she recalled the building had a dual purpose (also being used as a skills teaching centre).

“Any young adults who are looking to learn a skill, but haven’t gone away to school or been able to afford to go away to school, they can go there and they are taught during the day,” Caul explained.

“Then at 2 p.m., it becomes the youth centre so when the kids get out of school, it’s set up for them.

“I think that’s really a cool idea,” she enthused.

Caul conceded there still are a lot of cost issues associated with it and she wasn’t sure how it was funded, but felt it’s an interesting idea.

“I just often see these kids who don’t really fit in anywhere and they need something, too,” she stressed. “And those are the ones that we often lose through the cracks.”

Both Caul and Pearson said if anyone in the community has additional ideas or wants to get involved, they would welcome more input and perspectives.

“We could always use more heads and more people involved to help us,” Pearson remarked.

“It’s in its infancy but it would be nice to see something set up along the way sooner than later,” echoed Caul.

If you want to provide input or get involved, call Caul at 274-2209.

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