The Dryden Observer

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What is the Youth Centre solution?

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

Among the many dilemmas and tough decisions presented by the City of Dryden’s budget difficulties, few perplex me as much as the fate of the Dryden Youth Centre.

Sustainable core funding for this worthwhile entity — operated out of the Dryden High School Thursdays through Saturdays — has been an issue since the days it operated out of a small building in North Dryden.

I think the program, which has over the last few years relied upon $35,000 to $50,000 per year in funding from the city to support a couple of staff positions, suffers from a lack of visibility — blending into the background of its high school host.

On the few times I’ve walked past the Youth Centre in action, I usually see a handful of kids hanging out in the computer lab using the Internet.

When I talk the issue out with Jon Thompson, during our brainstorming/therapy sessions, my inner conservative bubbles to fore with the futility of providing ‘supervised Internet’ and whether that should be the focus of city funds.

I ask why can’t we do something to re-engage kids with nature or challenge them? Opens Roads’ Explore Program is one interesting new venture, one that just culminated in a successful canoe voyage to White Otter Castle for no less than 20 Grade 8 students. It’s an old fashioned idea, but one I think is ripe for revival in a youth culture increasingly shaped by digital forces and growing distant from the natural world and traditional forms of human interaction.

I may be comparing apples to oranges, I know.

The Youth Centre’s Steven Patey makes a convincing argument that for some of the kids who utilize the service, the youth centre is a refuge, a safe place in lives already made too complicated by circumstances beyond their control. For them it is important that the Youth Centre simply be an open door and someone they can trust.

Patey’s point is a good one and it’s one that makes it all the more difficult to analyze from a cost vs. benefit standpoint.

In these times, when the people of Dryden are increasingly called upon to examine what we value in the things our taxes pay for, it also becomes the responsibility of those who depend on these programs to become their voice.

If the Dryden Youth Centre has helped you, demonstrate that fact to this community. Make some noise and be heard before it is too late.

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