Students pour in through the open bay door moments after the lunch bell at Oak Bay High.
The bright and clean new Youth Centre at the secondary school, which boasts a ping pong table, pool table, 70-inch television (and Netfix), draws more than twice the students the old portable did last year.
“It’s bigger. All the equipment is new and exciting. It’s in the school itself rather than a portable in the corner somewhere,” said Braeden Varney, Youth Centre attendant.
About 45 youth visit during the lunch break with a crowd of about 25 after school. The previous centre, a portable at the edge of the school grounds, averaged 17 at lunch and – as a shared space with after school care – couldn’t accommodate an after school session.
“They see it visually,” Varney said, noting the bay door opens onto the pathway between the back of the school and the soon-to-be new turf field.
As students pass by they look in and sometimes stop. Often the activity draws attention and lineups for the ping pong and pool tables.
“It gives them a place to hang out at lunch, especially if they don’t have some buddies at the start,” he said.
As students flood in, some greeting each other at the pool table, the surround sound blasts the soundtrack of a Will Ferrell comedy on the T.V. and kids jump the back of the couch to settle in with their lunches.
“Without this space, those youth tend to hang out in their own posses,” Varney said. “This way they integrate wit h each other.”
The centre has hosted one event so far, something that was difficult in the old building. A second event, Youth Friday, is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 30 from 2 to 6 p.m. Now, with after school care in its own space, the centre is also open to youth after school.
“The after school time, some kids are not ready to go home yet and just want to hang out with their buds,” Varney said.
Grade 10 student Anthesa Suarez, agrees “it’s a great place to make friends.”
It’s all about the popcorn, says Tyron Tria with a laugh. “At lunch you have a place to go,” the Grade 11 student adds in a more serious tone, but still sporting a smile.
The new Youth Centre, part of the Neighbourhood Learning Centre in Oak Bay High, is a place filled with laughter. The teens visibly enjoy the new equipment provided by the Rotary of Oak Bay such as computers, kitchen supplies and equipment, furniture and television.
“It’s very comfortable and homey,” said Grade 11 student Sean Reyes.
The local Rotary came through with $40,000 in funding.
“It took about three years to raise the funds,” said Jim Force, past president of the local Rotary.
“We have supported the teen centre that was in the portable. We’ve been involved with the youth for years at Oak Bay high school and through the rec centre,” Force added.
“With the move, of course we wanted to continue to be part of it. We really like what it does there, the support it gives young people in the community.”
Originally, Rotary donated the portable to the municipality for the centre. The municipality donated that old Teen Centre – which more than served its time in the community – back to Rotary. They’re working with groups on the Island to relocate it through the Government House Right to Read program.
“They will take it and refurbish it and then it’s going to be placed in a First Nation community in Nanaimo and converted into a library,” Force said. “That move should be happening by mid-November … then placed in Nanaimo in the spring.”