Cue’s on Main was packed Saturday afternoon when youth from the YES project took over the pool room to launch their latest initiative.
The Youth Esteem Strategy (YES) aims to build a youth resource centre in Penticton, and the launch party at Cue’s Game Room featured free pool and food, along with YES youth ambassadors providing more information on how to get involved.
The concept of the centre is to provide at-risk youth in the South Okanagan with a safe place to go when they have nowhere else to turn in an accessible location and offering facilities ranging from activities to support services.
“The centre will be really welcoming to everyone,” said Emma Reiter, one of the youth organizers. A youth centre, she explained to the crowd of youth and supporters filling Cue’s, could offer sports, arts and cultural facilities as well as counselling for any issues facing youth such as mental health or sexual issues.
“It could also offer employment support and tutoring help,” said Reiter, adding that another key function would be shelter services.
“There is no emergency shelter anywhere for youth in Penticton. The youth need a safe place to go if they have nowhere else,” said Reiter.
While the group was collecting information in the planning stages, Reiter said, 99 per cent of the youth interviewed reported a need for a dedicated youth resource centre.
This is the latest effort from the YES project and the third leg of their strategy, which emerged from a 2013 study funded through the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen and the United Way. The first two pillars are establishing year-round activities for youth and creating a youth-driven public awareness campaign.
Part of the campaign was the YES! Youth of the Week winners, who have been profiled in the Western News over the past 13 weeks. Many of those winners attended the launch event, where they were entered into a draw to win the grand prize, an iPad Mini donated by another sponsor, Sprott Shaw College.
“I think it is imperative we support them and all of the great things they do in our community,” said Zola Goebel of Sprott Shaw Penticton. “We have youth here that volunteer endless hours. They give of themselves every day of every week and it is great to be able to celebrate that.”
Brittni Miller was the lucky winner of the iPad. The 16-year-old’s original nomination as Youth of the Week came for demonstrating outstanding selflessness and helping her peers. Miller volunteers at various events via Pen High like the Ten Thousand Tonight Food Bank drive, as well as joining vice principal Sandra Richardson at Maggie High to create more awareness regarding youth mental health. Miller also volunteers to teach volleyball at her old elementary and middle school.
For more information about the YES Project visit www.pentictonyouth.ca.