Reprinted from "First Responders for Young People" issue of Visions Journal, 2006, 3 (2), p. 33
In May 2006, the Sto:lo Nation Health Services received a grant through the provincial government Crystal Meth Program. It was proposed that the funding be used to create a youth drop-in centre for aboriginal youth between the ages of 12 and 19 who live on and off reserves.
A youth drop-in centre has been a desire for many Sto:lo youth and their families for years. As an aboriginal youth myself, I yearned for a place that I could find positive role models in a safe, comfortable environment. The creation of a youth centre is an exciting and inspiring enterprise.
A steering committee was created to plan for the success of the youth centre. Many counsellors, youth workers and others were involved with the planning of the centre. A list of potential services and programs for the youth centre was made, as well as items that would be required for the centre. A portable building near the health services building was leased to be the official youth centre.
The core planning of the youth centre was conducted throughout the month of June. Staff was hired for the summer: a project leader and two peer counsellors. The project leader and I planned and organized for the official opening of the centre—which took place in the first week of July.
StY:LES Youth Drop-in Centre became the official name. StY:LES stands for Sto:lo youth, leadership, empowerment and support—everything we hope youth will find when they come to the centre.
Events and activities were created for different days of the week. Educational, recreational and cultural activities were integrated into the schedule of events. Some days have drop-in hours, when youth can socialize with other youth and the staff.
Positive relationships are being made at the drop-in centre. I introduced one male youth to StY:LES in July. The youth’s mother had been concerned about his addiction to ecstasy and had requested assistance from the health services addiction team. The youth also wanted help recovering from his addiction. He is a very intelligent young man. He realized he had a problem—and it was getting worse. The youth centre has proved to be a useful tool to intervene with his addiction. He has built a relationship with other youth and our staff members, especially one of our peer counsellors. He regularly attends the events and activities at the centre. I have noticed a big difference in his attitude and demeanour since he began attending.
There are other youth who come to the centre regularly. They are younger teens who appear to be seeking guidance and support from positive role models, and looking for a safe and comfortable place to just hang out. They don’t have problems with drugs or alcohol. The youth centre is an inviting place for them to go to, and it’s introducing them to fun things to do. This helps prevent them from trying drugs and alcohol or other unhealthy activities that boredom or peer pressure can sometimes lead to.
Every Thursday a field trip is held, or the peer counsellors give presentations upon request to educate youth. Each community has particular topics of concern they would like presented and discussed with their youth, although the majority of requests are for crystal meth, marijuana and alcohol. The presentation topics include information about drugs, alcohol, suicide prevention and life skills.
StY:LES is vital to the Sto:lo Nation community for the sustainability of our youth in general, as well as for intervention and prevention with youth at risk of abusing drugs and alcohol.
This initial grant by the province’s crystal meth initiative only funded the youth centre for the summer months. This created great concern for the youth, communities and staff, because continuation of the centre is felt to be crucial for our young people.
Recently, a follow-up proposal was submitted to the Crystal Meth Program in the hopes of keeping the doors to the youth centre open. I am very pleased to announce that funds have been granted and the youth centre will remain open throughout the fall—and, hope fully, for decades to come.