Channeling the energy and frustrations of youth into something creative, a new youth group is linking at-risk youth with music and drama.
The program — Prince Albert Aboriginal Youth Alliance Through Arts — works with the underlying goal of putting youth on a more positive path.
“They should be proud of who they are,” Indian Metis Friendship Centre of Prince Albert executive director Connie Farber said.
It’s a new incarnation of the centre’s last evening youth program, which shut down in June do to its federal funding running dry.
Despite federal funding still not officially in, a new version of the youth group officially began last week, with the centre pulling funds from elsewhere to fund it for the time being.
Knowing that they’ve made a difference in kids’ lives makes it a worthwhile investment, Farber said.
“And I know we have,” she added. “Some of these kids are going to school again. They’re re-registered in school, and that’s huge!”
Sandy Vandale, the centre’s cultural program co-ordinator, said that she noticed a huge impact on the lives of youth during their last youth group effort.
“I’ve seen better outlooks on life for those kids,” she said.
“They seem to have a little bit more hope and confidence … They know and have felt that there are people out there who care about them.
“I see a lot more respect coming out of them — self respect and respect for the centre and I think they’re excited to be back.”
Some of these kids are going to school again. They’re re-registered in school, and that’s huge! - Connie Farber, Indian Metis Friendship Centre of Prince Albert executive director
On Monday, the group had about 20 youth show up — a turnout that repeated itself on Tuesday.
The group is divided into two age categories, including ages 10 to 14 and 15 to 24.
Farber encourages any youth interested in joining the group to show up at the centre to learn more, but she notes that those interested in participating must be prepared to contribute.
“We don’t just want them for the number, we want them to participate,” she said.
Mirroring this sentiment, Vandale is committed to making sure youth don’t just stop in for a meal, but that they contribute and therefore benefit from the program’s underlying goals.
In addition to general hangout time and cultural projects, the group is focused on promoting participation in music and drama, though the details of this programming has yet to be fully ironed out.
With the youth group effort currently taking place at the centre after school, from about 3:30 p.m. until early evening, Farber has her fingers crossed that funding will come in.
“I’m hoping to hear back soon,” she said. “We still haven’t got our funding from last year.”
It’s hoped that the federal Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth initiative, which has recently gone through some changes, will fund the youth group.