Youth centre reaching out to teens in community 

With the opening of Whistlers' Youth Centre in July, the local community has been given a positive and supervised atmosphere for its young people to grow and express themselves.

Whistlers' Youth Centre, in the basement of Maurice Young Millennium Place, offers fun and educational activities for teenagers four days a week, in a place that parents can feel comfortable sending their children to.

"Whistler's community is often overlooked," said Dave Smith, one of the centre's youth workers. "People see Whistler: the resort, and add and build to improve that and forget about building Whistler: the community; that's what were trying to do here."

The centre can involve everyone in the community with the youth of the community.

"It's hard to be a kid at that age because they can't relate to adults, yet they can't relate to younger kids either," says Smith. "It is cool that the community realized that it is hard to be a teenager anywhere, especially a place like Whistler."

The youth centre is equipped with four computers with high-speed Internet access, a pool table, air hockey, a big screen television and DVD player, Playstation 2 and Nintendo 64. The youth centre also has games, art supplies, a concession stand, and a courtesy youth telephone for calling home. In addition to the facilities, the youth centre offers a weekly photography clinic with a local pro, tutoring and resume workshops with one of the centre's two full-time youth workers, acting classes, dances, and break-dancing and self-defense instruction. The youth centre has also organized day trips such as a Christmas tree chop, and a snowshoe tour. For March break the youth centre planned an inexpensive weekend ski trip to Mt. Cain on Vancouver Island.

When the Alpenrock closed there was a void left for teenagers who didn't go up the mountain and didn't partake in athletics; the youth centre has filled that void. Jordan Bailey, 14, who attends Whistler Secondary, comes to the youth centre with his friends everyday it is open to use the computers, watch movies, and play video games.

"Photo night on Wednesdays is my favourite," said Bailey. "I wish it was open later and more often, but they're doing a good job with what they have now."

"Whistler is an expensive place to live," said recreation programmer Caroline Stroud.

"Most parents here have to work. The youth centre is a great place for their children to come when they are at work."

Smith adds: "It gives parents peace of mind, their children are in town but they aren't just hanging out in front of the 7-Eleven."

There is a drop-in charge of $2 per visit for locals, or $10 for a month pass ($5 drop-in for out-of-towners or $25 for a pass). This fee helps to cover the lease of the space from Millennium Place, worker's salaries, and supplies.

"The fee gives the kids a sense of ownership of the place, and they respect it more," said Smith.

Whistlers' Youth Centre hopes to reach out to more teens in the community over the next year. On an average weekday they get 10 to 12 visitors, and on weekends they get about 25 teens a day.

The youth centre hopes to entice more kids by having a full DJ set, ski tuning, and avalanche awareness and backcountry clinics. While the youth centre would like to increase their numbers and activities they know that it is a long process.

Smith said: "Rome wasn't built in a day, it will take some time before we are truly a staple in the Whistler community."

Hours of Operation: Wednesday and Thursday 3:30 to 8 p.m.; Friday 3:30 to 10 p.m.; Saturday noon to 8 p.m.

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