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Finishing touches on Youth Centre
Organizers hope the new centre will be open part-time starting next month

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hard work is going on behind the scenes at the new Inuvik Youth Centre, now in its final push before being able to open its doors to young people in the community for the first time in more than a year and a half.

NNSL photo/graphic

The new Inuvik Youth Centre is hoping to open its doors, at least part-time, by the end of next month. Here, board chair Jonathon Michel, left, board member Carole Charlton, executive director Samantha Stokell and board member Rory Voudrach stand outside of the centre last Thursday. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

"It's sort of a fresh start for the youth centre," said Samantha Stokell, executive director of the Inuvik Youth Centre.

The last renovation work that needed to be complete for the building to pass an environmental inspection was the floor, which was getting its final touches last week.

"The goal right now is to open in June, maybe just for a couple of days per week," said Stokell.

Before that can happen, the centre needs to hire a co-ordinator. This person will play a major role in the centre, having a hand in everything from designing and implementing programs to managing the budget.

Applications are already being reviewed for this position. However, since there were no qualified applicants from within the community, it's expected the centre will have to wait as the new hire makes the trip to Inuvik, said Stokell.

Since the old youth centre closed its doors about a year and a half ago, a pretty big gap in services has been left for youth in the community, said Jimmy Ruttan, a board member who previously worked at the centre as the program co-ordinator.

"Kids are bored, right? What do you expect?" he asked. "Right now, there isn't a whole lot offered in town for youth. That's not to say that if kids are out by themselves they're doing anything bad, but you're looking for them to explore different opportunities."

The centre is also looking for more board members to help make final, critical decisions and speed up the opening process. Last summer, the board was down to two members. While this has since increased to five, the centre is looking to have 10 board members because people in Inuvik tend to travel a lot and it speeds up the decision-making process to always have at least a handful of members in town.

Centre staff are currently working on its budget and a strategic plan that will guide them through the next three to five years, said Stokell.

"I guess it's really exciting for people to be able to join the board at this time because they can really have an input on what the youth centre is going to be for the next few years," she said.

Many details about the centre have yet to be ironed out, such as the target age of youth to be served at the centre and the centre's exact hours, said Stokell. However, it will definitely be offering after-school programming once it is fully up and running, and the aim is for to stay open late at least one night on weekends.

"The youth centre wants to provide opportunities that help youth become contributing, confident, healthy and successful in their community," said Stokell. "That will involve offering programs and workshops that help them gain skills and find abilities and knowledge that they maybe didn't have before."

While the old youth centre had been in operation since about 1996, it had gained a bit of a bad reputation in town as some parents and youth were uncomfortable with certain crowds that frequented it.

"What we're trying to achieve with this new youth centre is a bit of a new beginning," Ruttan said "We want to erase the negative stigma that surrounded the (old) youth centre."

There is a pressing need for activities for youth outside of organized sports, said Stokell, citing the example of the high school's Lights On program which has been seeing about 70 youths take advantage of the safe place to hang out on Saturday nights.

"(Inuvik) is a small community, it's a Northern community, there aren't a lot of healthy activities at no cost for youth in the community," she said.

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