Youth Centre Activism
Where I grew up we followed a middle school model and so public school was divided K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The summer between grade 8 and 9 in 1988 was a long, hot summer and I spent most of it worrying about the gigantic leap to high school – primarly what I was going to wear that first day of school. Like many small towns, the town where I grew up was the type of place one might describe as “sidewalks rolled up at 6PM” or perhaps “home of the nearly dead and the newly wed”. For those of us in the aching, angst filled years between 13-18, weekends were filled with drinking outdoors on Crown Land, driving aimlessly around town back and forth from A&W to McDonald’s, attending house parties, walking for miles, and being silly bored. For most teenagers, it ended there or perhaps veered into vomiting in a bush or breaking curfew. For others, this drunken boredom turned to vandalism, assault, and, as “they” say, opened up a gateway to a life of crime. That summer was soured and my clothing concerns became so unbelievably insignificant when tragically, one of my future classmates was killed the week before school started while riding her bike along the highway on her way to visit her horse stable. Her name was Alexandra Clancy. I didn’t know her well, but I knew her enough.
Alexandra Clancy had been an avid supporter of the creation of a youth drop in centre in our small town - a place to hang out, without looming parents, and be in a safe place. After her death, a group of teenagers began to champion the cause and I spent countless hours fundraising for a youth centre. We envisioned pool tables, couches, the ever-so-modern Nintendos, and maybe a concession of some sort. We wanted it to be in the centre of town, and open really late. We organized a highly successful 24 Hour Dance-a-thon, did bottle drives, car washes… you name it. I poured my energy into fundraising for the effort.
Time is its own master, and I never did see the creation of a youth drop in centre while I was at the age to enjoy it. I grew up, moved on, and kept in touch with the goings-on of the teenagers in town via my mom, who had helped with the fundraising. The youth centre did happen, albeit in a limited form and many years later, and a quick Google search shows that the Canada Revenue Agency Charities Directorate pulled the charitable status from the group in 2001 for failure to file.
So when a press release from our city came across my inbox announcing the groundbreaking of a youth centre at Moody Park, I was excited to see not only the funds already allocated (pricetag – $2.75 million), but stuff actually happening.
The youth centre is a joint venture of the City of New Westminster, the Province of BC, and Western Economic Diversification Canada and is aimed at youths aged 13-18. The space is planned for 4000 square feet, and its location adjacent to the senior-aimed Century House is meant to foster intergenerational relationships, a fact that New Westminster needs to actualize given the changing demographics. The project also includes some revitalization of the park facilities, including the construction of outdoor washrooms. As a patron of the park, I’m happy to hear that. I admit I’m excited about this also because it’s in my neighbourhood, and the roving teenagers I see frequently wandering might actually have something to do.
The expected completion date is the nicely vague “spring 2010″ but the fact that it’s going to happen within a year amazes me and impresses me. I guess back in my day we never thought to approach the coffers of the Provincial goverment and instead concentrated on our various community fundraising efforts.
That’s not to say that money doesn’t need to be raised to furnish and outfit the new Youth Centre. In addition to the groundbreaking ceremony, the Youth Centre @ Moody Park Fundraising Campaign with a goal of $200,000 was also announced. They’ve even started up a micro site so we can donate and track the progress.