With under two months on the job, teen advocate Rachel Wagner is on a mission.
“We have heard from teens and adults that we need a suitable space for a youth centre,” she said. “Now we are asking the community for suggestions about a suitable space. In many other communities, youth centre space is donated by a business or a local hall.”
Wagner grew up in Yahk and graduated from Prince Charles Secondary School, so she is sympathetic to youth who bus in each day for school, then have no place to go if they stay in town for activities in the evening.
A recent example, she said, became apparent when young volunteers worked on Saturday to help set up for the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. On a wet and chilly day they were then without “a home” until the event started in the evening. Fortunately, they were bailed out by the Creston Valley Public Library, which is an enthusiastic supporter of the Teen Action Committee.
Wagner is clearly excited to be in her new role, with an office in the library and the informal mentorship of Jackie Hula, a member of the Community Advisory Council and the library’s youth services co-ordinator.
“It is the opportunity to make a difference that makes it really appealing,” she said.
With a four-year funding commitment from Columbia Basin Trust, the Teen Action Committee has resources to put on events for the 12-19 age group.
“We try to be as inclusive as we possibly can,” she said. “We are youth driven — our ideas come from the teens.”
Wagner said TAC draws 20 to 40 young people to events like movie nights — the Harry Potter movie marathon at the library was a hit — and pool parties at the community complex.
Other activities are designed to engage youth in the community. Members were involved in the recent happiness survey, distributing information and encouraging other young people to participate by taking the survey. A few write a monthly column for the Creston Valley Advance. Next month they will play an active role in the annual Children’s Winter Festival, which will be held this year at the Lower Kootenay Band gym on Family Day, Feb. 9.
The combination of adult involvement — new town councillors Jen Comer and Kevin Boehmer now sit on the advisory council, along with others who represent agencies with a connection to youth services — and teens who attend regular TAC meetings is key to sustaining the program.
“The kids I have been involved with want activities, so we are trying to have at least two or three a month,” Wagner said. “But they also want a youth centre, and that will be our focus in the coming months.”
Anyone with information or suggestions about a potential space for a youth centre is invited to contact Wagner through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.