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Inuvik youth centre sees bright days

Kenny Stewart, Faith Raymond and Cheryl Zaw are some of the staff steering the Inuvik Youth Centre to a brighter future. Once known as a sketchy place for youth, the centre is hitting a groove as a positive place in the community. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

Faith Raymond and Kenny Stewart remember the reputation the Inuvik Youth Centre had when they were growing up in town.

“From a parent’s perspective, the youth centre was a place where you didn’t want your kid to end up,” said Raymond, 19, who now works as the centre’s coordinator.

“I wasn’t allowed to go to the youth centre as a kid because of the location and the lack of supervision.”

Now she feels like the youth centre has become a safe place for youth to come and do what they want in a positive way.

Stewart, 17, opportunities director, agrees.

“I can definitely say we have changed a bunch,” he said. “The old youth centre, there’d be no rules, facilitators wouldn’t do their job, they’d just sit in the office not interacting at all. Now we have a bigger youth centre, more opportunities and we interact with youth.”

Both said it’s been a long process of slowly improving the centre over the years and between several executive directors.

Cheryl Zaw, current executive director, said at least three and often up to five staff are on site at all times now, so conflicts are dealt with much more quickly.

She’s been at the centre for four months and wants the facility to support parents more.

One of the only major problems she’s run into is a sewage tank that keeps overfilling. That has shelved the centre’s plans for being a place families can do their laundry. The centre has the machines ready to go, but the facility’s sewer system overfills too quickly, which has closed the centre multiple times.

“Right now, our biggest problem is the building itself, our plumbing issue,” said Raymond.

She hopes to run more programs focusing on promoting local culture.

The centre has a host of upcoming events, everything from regular archery sessions to on-the-land camps and even a ninja training camp in mid-August.

Zaw encourages community members to come to the centre to teach their skills to the youth, whether they be in hockey, music or whatever else.

“We get a strong community when adults are feeding back into youth,” she said.

Besides the plumbing issue, it’s bright days ahead for the youth centre.

“At this point, a lot of our direction is just stability, being a constant and consistent presence that youth can rely on,” said Zaw.