Behind its sleepy façade, the village of New Denver is a happening place. Small towns can be a particular challenge for youth but thanks to the New Denver and Area Youth Centre Society and the Outlet Youth Centre on mainstreet, there’s lots going on. Now in its seventh year, the society includes youth input during its monthly board meetings. At a time when volunteerism generally is in decline, youth here are given plenty of opportunities to volunteer. During the past year youth have contributed 80 volunteer hours to the community.
“I think the fact that the youth centre is right downtown is something the kids really respond to,” says the society’s coordinator Paula Shandro. “I think they feel valued that we aren’t tucking them away in some corner. And it makes them more accountable. We are very fortunate to have Harriet Richardson and Isaac Carter as our amazing supervisors, holding the space for our youth.”
The latest news? At the society’s April 10 AGM it was announced that after over a dozen meetings with the Village, school and community, plans are in the works to transform the Lucerne school tennis court into a skateboarding area. During the winter, in collaboration with Lucerne School, 25–30 students participated in the four high school ski days at various ski hills throughout the region. In January, 10 youth enjoyed a trip to Nakusp Hot Springs. In February, professional singer Kelly Coubrough started a teen singing group, bringing world-class instruction to our tiny village. In March, 17 local youths enjoyed a field trip to Castlegar for swimming, dinner and a movie. During spring break, a musical theatre camp was held for both teens and pre-teens. And the year isn’t half over yet.
This followed an even busier year in 2017, when New Denver hosted the Columbia Basin Trust Regional Youth Summit in May. More than 70 young people came together, including 11 from New Denver, for a day-long event of leadership exercises, an amazing race, food and karaoke. In June 2017 a two-day course in Mental Health First Aid for Adults Working with Youth was offered, with five locals receiving the training, a total of 18 adults. In July the kids held a streetside car wash to raise funds for the New Denver preschool and the Anita Dumins cancer treatment fund. A dozen youth volunteered for Hills Garlic Festival staffing the gates. Then in October three young people participated in a full day Kootenay Emergency Response practice. The kids enjoyed having fake blood smeared on themselves to pose as accident victims. During the fall local teens were hired to provide after-school arts and gym programming for children at Lucerne School. A youth survey distributed during the fall received almost a 100 percent response rate.
The regular programming alone is enough to keep young people from being bored. Those wanting to learn how to make their own videos can join the Media Club, with ICandy Films filmmaker Isaac Carter facilitating. Every Tuesday, a homemade dinner is offered at the Outlet Youth Centre. According to Shandro, food programming has always been an important part of the society’s priorities. CBT Basin Youth Network funding has provided funding for fitness centre memberships for youth, school lunch program subsidies, contributions toward sexual health workshops at the school, a Shakespeare Festival field trip, Valhalla Fine Arts Dance bursaries and community stage, high school swim lessons, school passion projects, training courses and more. The recently established Youth Empowerment Fund enables young people to apply for funding to pursue their passions in exchange for a modest volunteer commitment.
“They can do it for music lessons, sports equipment, or out of town recreation events like parkour and soccer,” says Shandro. “They have to reach out and say, this is what I really would like to do.”
A recent spate of vandalism in New Denver that included graffiti at the Lamarche home and cars being rifled through prompted the society to reach out to a restorative justice counsellor. To their credit, all of the youths involved have come forward to apologize and offer restitution to the offended parties. According to Shandro, the Lamarches and the parents of those involved helped make it happen.
“I’d like to acknowledge Linny and Steve’s position that they were going to be patient and give them time to come forward. Our group offered to clean it up and Tamara Claxton offered to paint it over but they wanted those responsible to come forward. We are grateful that Linny and Steve and other community members offered their understanding while giving our youth the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions.”
Other programs being developed include a youth employment strategy with the goal of supporting youth in developing their skills while building their confidence and their résumés. The CBT Youth Summit will be held in Kimberly again this year the weekend of May 4–6, a weekend of leadership building, arts, music and connecting with over 150 youth from the entire Columbia River Basin. For regular updates, the Outlet Youth Centre maintains a Facebook page, a moderated group for both youth and their parents.
NOTE: This article also appeared in the Valley Voice issue of April 19, 2018. Visit the newspaper at http://www.valleyvoice.ca