South Surrey and White Rock youth bid for new youth-oriented space

SOUTH SURREY/WHITE ROCK — On Vine Avenue, near Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, there’s a branch of South Surrey’s Alexandra Neighbourhood House that houses a free youth clinic – some humble offices and a small space with no more than six chairs and a small coffee table in the middle.

This is where several youth from White Rock and South Surrey come to hang out after school, congregate, chat and play games.

Jessie Kergan and Maxine Larmour, youth and family workers at the space, are hoping to change that with a bid for cash to put toward opening a new youth facility in town.

The funding would come from the Aviva Community Campaign, a contest that gives away to cash to proposed community projects that are action-based. There are five different categories, and the youth space falls under “at-risk youth.”

“It’s our office space, and it’s the space where once a month or once a week we might have some drop-in time, so it’s kind of an unofficial space but really it’s not a space, it’s an office,” Larmour said at the Vine Avenue Alexandra Neighbourhood House.

“Obviously, you get about eight youth here and then they’re all sitting on top of each other… the youth are using it as a youth space, so it sort of indicates the need for a youth space.”

Sometimes, the kids drop in and hang out for about five hours, according to Larmour.

Kergan, who said she enjoys having the youth around, wants to see a bigger, multi-functional space.

“We want more for them. We want a space where they can do more cool stuff besides sitting on the couch, maybe playing some games and eating,” she said.

If they win the bid in their category, they’re looking at $100,000 to start up a new place led by the Youth Collective, a group of 13- to 24-year-olds in the South Surrey and White Rock area.

The youth collective put on a film fest night last Thursday (Nov. 27) at White Rock Community Centre, screening a video that detailed why the kids need a space to call their own.

So what exactly do they want?

“Make it personal, that’s the idea,” said Luke Doucette, 18, who’s been using the small Vine Avenue office for an after-school crash pad for the last few months.

“It would be cool if the space we had was personalized by the youth,” he said.  “For myself… I was just going home after school and I’m supposed to be looking for a job but I haven’t. I procrastinate to no end, and then I was introduced to this place and invited into the collective and it showed me that it’s purposeful in my life and it can mean something to me in a personal way.”

For 19-year-old Tayla Cops, the need for a space to come to was all about purpose, too.

“When I was in school, I was basically the same as Luke, going home after school and not having much to do,” she said.

“Especially here in White Rock, there’s not much for youth to do, which means a lot of our friends are getting into the bad stuff, even though a lot of them talk about wanting to do great things…. So, we’re wanting to take a stand and it makes me feel great because it’s giving me a purpose, it’s giving me something to wake up in the morning every day and go ‘OK, this is a new day and we’re gonna get more support and we’re gonna get our word out,’ and it feels great.”

The two youth workers, along with kids from the Youth Collective, already have a ton of ideas on how the space could be used.

Doucette hopes the space can allow him to learn more life-skills in the form of workshops, as well as resume-building help.

Cops enthusiastically suggested it could house a photography club and perhaps even a jam-space for the musically inclined.

There could be art shows, a stage for theatre or, as 16-year-old Kira Sky Johnson puts simply, “we’d have somewhere to go to just hang out.”

While the ideas are abundant, Kergan knows it all starts with the first step, and that’s getting the community involved in helping the Youth Collective get their space.

“We’re trying to dream big but we also know that it will take little steps to get to that place. Most other communities have a youth space, we do not,” she said.

On the collective’s Aviva page (Avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf19614), there are two videos made by youth addressing their need and vision for the space. To help the South Surrey/White Rock Youth Collective get their youth space, visit the group’s page, register for an account and vote once a day until Dec. 10. Voting to get them in the finals began on Monday (Dec. 1).

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