Youth centre opens in Ile-a-la Crosse

By Rachel Muenz

Ile-a-la Crosse youth will now not only have a place to just hang out but also to hone their artistic talents after the official opening of a brand-new youth centre in the village May 16.

“It’s been a long process of putting this facility up, I think it’s been 18 months from start to finish,” said Ile-a-la Crosse Mayor Duane Favel. “We’re certainly proud as a community to have it complete.”

Youth, residents and officials from the Northern Lights School Division, village and Government of Saskatchewan all came out for a barbecue, ribbon-cutting and entertainment by the community’s young musicians to celebrate the centre’s grand opening.

Specifically, the centre will be a place for the performing arts, where youth can take music lessons and drama and dance clubs can hold meetings and practices but other activities will be held there as well.

“I think it’s important that the youth of this community have a place that they can go to grow and to develop their skills whether it’s in music or in arts,” Favel said. “I think we need to have a strong music and arts program to have a good balance for the youth.”

Youth can now enjoy $60,000 worth of top-of-the-line lighting and sound equipment, a TV and computer lounge, a stage for performances with a live feed to the local radio and TV station and musical instruments along with a kitchen, pool table and foosball table.

The project was initiated about three years ago after village officials and community members met with Bruce McKee of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health in response to suicides in the area.

“We were so impressed by the suggestions and proposals from the people of Ile-a-la Crosse,” said McKee, adding the main theme that came out of that meeting was the need for a youth centre.

While the village had a youth centre in the past, it did not have a building dedicated for that purpose and with its previous location shut down last September and construction delays, that meant a long wait for young people.

“When our old youth centre closed down, we had no place to hang out,” said the village’s Sakitawak Aboriginal Youth Council chairperson Danely Mispounas, adding he’s looking forward to having concerts and drama productions at the new spot.

The centre will be 100 per cent under the control of the seven-member youth executive council and will target youth ages 10-24, though it won’t turn away younger children, said youth programmer Nathan Favel.

Favel added the new building will allow them to more effectively run programs from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Sunday, focusing on culture, life skills and wellness, youth engagement and leadership development.

“Finally the day has come,” Favel said. “We have a building that’s going to be effective enough to do structured programming because the past building we had was a vacant home and there wasn’t adequate space.”

Favel added he’s grateful to the partnership between the municipality, Sakitawak Development Corporation, the village’s Friendship Centre and the province, along with donations from local businesses and even some from Saskatoon that got the project done.

The Youth Centre is already busy working on offering even more activities such as a paintball club and canoeing club. There’s also a cultural camp set to take place at the end of the month and a youth conference to be held in July.

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