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Turning over a new leaf
Youth Centre hopes new location will improve tarnished image

Kira Curtis
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 17, 2011

INUVIK - The Inuvik Youth Centre is looking to change its image with the move to its partially renovated new location.

NNSL photo/graphic

The Inuvik Youth centre is preparing to move to its new location near the Midnight Sun Complex. Maia Lepage, the acting chair of the centre's board of directors, says she hopes the new location will improve the centre's tarnished image. - NNSL file photo

"We've been trying to change the image and trying to work with the programing to kind of change the opinions in town," said Maia Lepage, the acting chair of the centre's board of directors.

And though they have a location for a new facility, where the centre can start with a clean slate, there is still no date of completion for the renovations.

Lepage is hoping for March or April but isn't holding her breath just yet. The new location is beside the Midnight Sun Complex where the food bank used to be, which would get the centre off the main drag and away from the bars.

Lepage has grown up around the Inuvik Youth Centre, whether hanging out there or working the door, and has seen the potential a place like that has for a young community.

"On a Friday or Saturday, when we were open, we were hosting 40 to 60 kids sometimes," she said.

But a few years back, a few youth began selling drugs around the building and drinking, which tarnished the centre's image. Lepage said it didn't happen all the time, but people remember the bad.

"We cracked down on that and we have things set up, and the RCMP come through now, but it only takes once for the reputation to kind of go down," Lepage said. "So a lot of the community sees the Youth Centre as a place where all the bad kids go, and nobody wants to send their kids there if it's just the bad seeds."

Between the tarnished image, the delays on renovations for the new location and the constant turnover of co-ordinators over the past four years, the centre has fallen into a derelict state.

In December, the centre caught a second wind in the name of Jiri Raska, who took the over the vacant co-ordinator position with a motivated, headstrong approach. He re-introduced programs and moved the centre a small step towards being fully operational again.

But the Youth Centre's budget has never been able to match other salaries in Inuvik and the Beaufort Delta, and after six weeks in the often thankless position, Raska accepted another job and moved on.

It has been difficult for Lepage and the other directors to get the community support they need. Over the years, as the oil and gas companies left Inuvik, corporate funding began to dry up.

"We put out letters in November or December to try to appeal to the community to get more funding but it's a hard-sell because the Youth Centre at the moment doesn't have the best reputation," Lepage said.

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