What’s so special about the youth centre?

Published in the Nelson Daily News | June 1998 | Circulation: 3,800

 

I have recently heard opinions that the Nelson & District Youth Centre (NDYC) should become a Nelson & District “Community” Centre – a place for the whole community, instead of a place specifically for youth. I think that would be a terrible mistake.

I am a member of the group labeled ‘youth.’ Those obnoxious, lazy teens… supposedly, I am one of them. The youth of Nelson are becoming increasingly aware that we are not welcome in this city. Bylaw after bylaw has been passed restricting us – no skateboarding, hackeysacking, and so on. Now they want to take away our youth centre.

So why shouldn’t they?

First of all, if we don’t have a place to do what we like to do – for instance, skateboarding or seeing live music – where else are we going to go? To the streets? Into the bush?

The youth centre is more than just a place to skateboard. It is the only place in Nelson which is designated specifically for us. In a town which seems to be so against us, a town in which “industrial growth” is favoured over social well-being, and a town in which youth are widely stereotyped and mistrusted, we need somewhere to go to get away from it all. The NDYC is the only such place.

The centre has already been shut down once, when it was The Garage. Since then it has changed a lot and has corrected all of its past failures. There are no drugs in the youth centre. There is no alcohol in the youth centre. And, despite what many people think, it is not just a place for skateboarding and ramp sports; there is so much more to do.

Everything is available from a darkroom to Internet access, concerts and dances to theatre and mask-making workshops. The adult coordinators follow strict guidelines when it comes to bullies, drugs, alcohol and harassment, and the guidelines are followed because everyone at the youth centre realizes how important the centre is to the youth of this town.

People argue that the term “youth” is exclusive. Of course it is exclusive! That is the point! In this town, almost every concert is held in bars or night clubs – where youth are not allowed. We are excluded from the music scene, another monopoly held by adults.

Life is full of exclusion, and few people know that fact better than youth people. If the youth centre were to become a community centre, open to the public of all ages, it would no longer be special. It would be just like everywhere else in Nelson – a place where we don’t belong.

I see no reason or excuse to take our youth centre away from us. After all, it is one of the few things special to the youth of Nelson.

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