Morinville Youth In Action member Alex Gonzalez makes a break while (from left) Nick Valcourt and fellow Youth In Action members Donavan Jarvis and Jared Pasuta look on. The Morinville Seniors Rendez-Vous Centre donated the pool table to the youth centre late last year. – Stephen Dafoe Photos
By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – The sound of popcorn popping and pool balls cracking mixed with the laughter of Morinville youth Saturday afternoon during the grand reopening of the Morinville Teen Centre. The facility, located across from the Ray McDonald Sport Centre at the corner of 104 Street and 99 Avenue, recently underwent approximately $7,000 worth of renovations and equipment upgrades, measures Nick Valcourt, Morinville’s Youth Worker, said were needed to make the facility a place youth would feel comfortable hanging out.
“They can come here and do homework. They can do whatever they want,” Valcourt said. “They can be themselves here. That’s the goal. There’s a whole lot of things going on for youth, but there are some [youth] that are not involved in the [extracurricular] school things, so this is kind of an alternate option for them.”
The first step in creating the venue for that alternate option was repainting the facility to a brighter colour scheme from what Valcourt said was a rather gloomy one. New flooring, trim, sinks and shelving were also part of the structural and cosmetic facelift. Once redecorated, it was a matter of furnishing the facility with new equipment, including a pool table donated by the Seniors Rendez-Vous Centre, a foosball table, big screen television and Wi-Fi ready computer systems.
Much of the labour was donated. Town of Morinville employees kicked in time on the inside renovations and the Morinville Lions Club financed and renovated the exterior of the facility and its deck.
Appreciative of all that has been done for Morinville youth, Valcourt wants to the see the facility used as much as possible. The plan is to have the Teen Centre open Monday and Wednesday nights from 4 p.m. until 8 or 9 p.m. on an ongoing basis. Saturdays could be added if there is sufficient demand. In addition to the two planned nights, the youth worker said special evenings would take place for board games, Youth in Action Committee meetings, and gaming tournaments, including pool and foosball tournaments.
However the facility is used, Valcourt said all activities will be supervised and that some house rules have been established. Nothing onerous – just some basic rules youth would expect to follow in school: no rough language, no bullying, and a mutual respect for all involved.
After a rash of break-ins, followed by a period of inactivity and the talk of closing the facility, there is a desire among those involved to have the Teen Centre in Morinville seen in a more positive light, a place where local youth can go and feel safe. “That’s the image that I’m trying to start,” Valcourt said, noting when he began as interim youth worker the facility had not been well kept, many of the facilities items broken or damaged. “Over time parents will be more comfortable sending their kids over and kids are going to talk too.”
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Positive opening day reactions
Teens were already talking Saturday, to one another and about the newly renovated facility. Jared Pasuta, a member of Valcourt’s Youth in Action Committee, was pleased with what he saw. “The renovations that have been done here at the Teen Centre makes it quite a bit better than it was before,” Pasuta said. “It’s more cleaner than it was and everything is brand new.”
Another youth impressed with and thankful for the renovations is fellow Youth in Action member Donovan Jarvis. “Pool table. New big TV. It’s attracting new people,” Jarvis said, adding he appreciated the fight and effort that went into putting it all together. “Nick has worked hard to get this Teen Centre up and running. I think Nick deserves a lot of credit for this. He’s worked really hard.”
But while the facility is seen as a benefit by the youth who came out for the Saturday opening, there is also a benefit to the work Valcourt is trying to do with Morinville teens and tweens. “It gives us a space to interact with the youth,” Valcourt said. “As youth worker, hidden in the cultural centre doesn’t really allow me to go out into the community and associate with the youth very much. This place lets them come to me and associate with their friends.”
Valcourt will have a few weeks to continue his work in Morinville. The youth worker leaves his post at the end of January to travel to South Korea where he will teach English. A replacement has not yet been hired, but Valcourt said someone is in place to oversee the Monday and Wednesday after school program.