Community Papers

A safe place for youth created by youth

Top row, from left, Ryland, Jess, Chey and Grace. Bottom row, Tayla and Kaitlyn.  Members from the White Rock Youth Collective meet last Thursday for their weekly meeting.  - Sarah Massah photo
Top row, from left, Ryland, Jess, Chey and Grace. Bottom row, Tayla and Kaitlyn. Members from the White Rock Youth Collective meet last Thursday for their weekly meeting.
— image credit: Sarah Massah photo

A group of teens are working together to create an inclusive and safe youth space in White Rock.

The goal for 25 teens – dubbed the White Rock Youth Collective – is to secure a space by this coming fall that youth can come to and feel safe, accepted and stimulated.

Made up of teens from all walks of life and varied backgrounds – including some who have struggled through adversity – the group has come together and been actively working on the project since last September with guidance from Alexandra Neighbourhood House youth and family worker Jessie Kergan and her supervisor, Maxine Larmour.

“We’ve been seeing this strong need for a space for youth to go to and be positive and do healthy things,” Kergan said, noting that community groups, like Alex House, have been working to find solutions for a number of years.

“Right away, it was recognized that it needed to be a youth-led initiative.”

After surveying local youth a year and a half ago, what came back was a desire for a youth space that provided ways to use their free time productively.

For group member Grace, the project also has a personal connection. The teen has seen friends dragged down into a dangerous lifestyle.

“It’s important because there is nothing (like this) in White Rock. And one of the main causes of drug use is boredom,” Grace said. “There are so many kids here who are into drugs and everything. So if we give them something to do maybe it would take away that negativity.”

After much brainstorming among the group, it was decided that the ideal location for the space would be “anywhere near Whaling Wall and 20th Avenue,” Kergan told Peace Arch News last week.

“When we sat down with them and asked them where they would actually go, we realized it needed to be on the main drag and accessible with transit.”

With current facilities that cater to youth in the area, one of the most consistent issues has been accessibility, Kergan noted.

“The (recreation centre) is not near a bus stop, it’s very out of the way. We’re looking for a location that’s more uptown and central,” said Tayla, who was recognized last week in Peace Arch News’ Celebrating our Younth Under 20 special section for her work with the youth collective and in her community.

The current youth space offered is more appropriate for those who are younger, Grace added.

The White Rock Youth Collective is envisioning a space (approximately 2,500 square feet) that would be a place for teens to just hang out and meet new friends or try drop-in programs and other activities, including DJing or even something arts-related.

“There’s a lot of sports at the rec centre, and I think it would be cool to have some more artistic options, because not everyone likes sports,” Chey, a youth collective member, explained.

The teens have already shared their vision at the annual Alexandra Festival in May and Surrey Steps Up 2014 in February. More recently, the group received positive feedback after a presentation at White Rock council.

Grace has designed business cards to hand out and the group created a Facebook page to spread the word. Another major goal for the group would be to create a social enterprise to sustain the space. Ideas suggested including baking or having a café where youth can do what they love to financially support the space while gaining vital job experience.

For Jess, the progress made has been unexpected. She recalled the Power of Hope workshop organized by Alex House last year and how the project was just in the early stages.

“That day, I had no idea what I was going into, but then I realized what we were actually doing and I got so excited because I didn’t think this could happen by youth,” she said. “I didn’t know that we could actually make a difference and create that space. And the fact that now I’m actually involved in this, I honestly couldn’t have imagined it.”

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