The kids these days are getting a bit more respect in town, if you ask a couple of Princess Margaret Secondary School students involved in organizing and fundraising for an upcoming youth centre.
Through the sole work of student leaders and organizers, PMSS’s student body has raised nearly $5,000 over the past year-and-a-half, with a goal for raising $10,000 by the end of the 2018/19 school year, as the Youth Engagement Strategy (YES) Project prepares to open a youth centre in town.
“It’s all student-based, no teachers, no parents,” said Husain Sattar, a PMSS student involved in the YES Project, which now has full control of 501 Main Street. “Me and Sarah (Wood) lead the group, and there’s 30 other students, and all of use work together, and we plan our events, we choose everything we need, we bake everything, all that.”
Sattar and Wood are both on the YES Project steering committee and the youth advisory committees for both YES and PMSS.
“It means a lot to me to be able to raise a lot of money for something that we’re both super passionate about. Knowing that your money is going toward something that is needed in the community, it’s a really good feeling,” Wood said.
But while the pair have found plenty of footing in advocating for the youth centre recently, Wood said they didn’t always have the momentum they currently have within the Penticton community as a whole.
“With any student-run event, there’s some bumps in the road. Definitely the respect level, I guess. Being a youth, lots of people have really gotten to know the youth in the town more and what we’re capable of,” Wood said.
“At the beginning, it was a bit of a challenge, being respected as an adult and having the capabilities of any other adult in being able to raise money.”
As things have gotten moving, though, Wood said the community has come to recognize how resourceful the youth in town can be, and the YES Project has found considerable support from the community as well.
“I work in a retirement home, and actually one lady had mentioned to me that she had donated, and I thought that that was really cool to see the people that are actually interested in the cause, and it’s not just the youth,” she said.
“Whenever we’re at school, people are asking ‘oh, how’s YES Project going, how’s everything going?’” Sattar added. “It’s just brought to a lot of people’s attention, and they’ve realized how much we actually need a resource centre in our community.”
On top of school work and being involved in three youth committees, the two are in PMSS’s leadership group and theatre, which can be tiring and tough to find time for themselves — but also rewarding.
“I know I’m working not just toward my future, but the future of the youth and the students of our school, and at the end of the day, you’re just lying, you’re tired, you feel so exhausted, but you still have that good feeling, like ‘wow, I accomplished something today,’” Sattar said.
As the YES Project gears up to open the youth centre, Wood said one program in particular stands out for her, which she is looking forward to seeing implemented when the youth centre gets rolling.
“We’ve been talking lately about having peer listeners. So those would be like youth-aged counsellors, almost, but we would obviously get specific training, and we’ll be trained to be able to talk people through their time of crisis,” she said. “Once that’s finally up and running and we’ve got the training, I’ll feel very accomplished after that.”
Sattar didn’t point to one program or another, but to the breadth of programs and services coming to the youth centre as the thing he is looking forward to most.
“People can come in and maybe do things like learn how to eat healthy or yoga, or healthy living, and it’s not just a place to go for crises; it’s a place to go for yourself to be happy and spend time,” he said.
“Anyone in the community, anyone who’s a youth who just need some place to go, that’s there for them.”