Editorial – Youth Centre off to a good start…let’s keep it that way

catching a break-web

After four attempted break-ins last spring, two of which were successful in their attempt, Town of Morinville staff, teens and those of us who supported getting the dormant facility going once again were left disheartened that the efforts to do something positive and constructive for youth was overshadowed by the repeated self-centred actions of common thieves.

When talk of renovating the facility began last fall, we were personally sceptical of the value of the efforts. More money to be spent on a program that would sit idle due to the fickle nature of youth, teenagers who would use the facility if and only if there was nothing better going on. It is worth noting this fickly apathy was inherent in previous generations, if proper retrospect be given to the matter.

Walking into the facility Saturday afternoon we fully expected to see youth worker Nick Valcourt sitting alone at a table, his chin upon his hand in contemplation of why teen centres were not like Iowa cornfields, sitting in contemplation of why it is when you build IT they still do not come.

But that is not we saw. What we got to see was a brightly decorated venue that looked liked a rec room getaway, complete with pool table, foosball table, dartboard, computers, big screen TV and leather furniture. More importantly, we saw youth – about a dozen during the visit – all talking, playing pool, darts, watching idiotic videos on YouTube, and laughing.

Make no mistake about it. This facility will not be for every teen’s taste. It is unlikely to see the minor hockey player or members of the high school basketball or track ball teams hanging out on a regular basis. Those students have their own after school activities and circles of influence. It is also unlikely to attract the drama or music crowd because they too have their productive pursuits. But what it does offer is an alternative for those who are outside the conventional offerings provided by our schools, youth who are left with little to occupy their time but one another.

Hanging out, by whatever colloquialism it is known from generation to generation, is what teens do and have largely always done. Having a venue like the Morinville Teen Centre provides an opportunity for those who need a Fortress of Solitude to have one.

But in order for that Fortress of Solitude to have meaning and momentum, it must have consistency. With the departure of Nick Valcourt at the end of January it is important the Town of Morinville not wait too long in hiring a suitable replacement to continue the work he and his predecessor A.D. Richardson began on behalf of the youth of this community.

Consistency with some variety to keep things interesting will keep this centre open. That is the Town and community’s part in the effort. The youth who find value in it will provide the word of mouth or more likely the tweets to keep the ball rolling.


1 Comment

  1. Stephen,

    You raise an interesting issue that is difficult to resolve. The ideal person to hire for this position must be you savvy enough to relate to the youth, as well as have the time and energy to spent with them. But the same person must also mature enough to be given the responsibilities that come with being a youth worker/town employee.

    However, young people are in a constant state of change. And that is not a bad thing. They may be working on a diploma, degree, or apprenticeship, or they may simply be someone who is in-between jobs or taking some time off from school. But it is a given that such people will move on to new challenges or start new careers once the right opportunity presents itself. Whether we like it or not, that is the nature of youth and we should encourage them to do so.

    Our town has to either be willing to pay enough to allow someone to make/start a career as our youth worker, or we have to accept that there will be a regular turnover. Two within a year is unfortunate, but I would argue that a regular annual turnover may be a good thing as it brings in new ideas and gives new leaders a chance to develop. Maybe we could partner with a college or university? Maybe we would find someone who is currently unemployed but has the right skills? Maybe the high school, churches, or other community groups could recommend someone?

    Whatever happens, we have been lucky to find two in a row that seem to have the right stuff. With luck, the Town will be able to find more.


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