Ten years ago today The Center hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially launch the fledgling efforts of the Swift Current Community Youth Initiative.
Over the ensuring decade The Center has provided counseling and programming for youth, delivering an immeasurable impact on young lives in the process.
Nathan Wiebe, SCCYI’s Executive Director, said their youth focused mandate has been heightened during the pandemic when they have been challenged to change their program delivery model.
“We just want to create a safe haven for kids to go. In the times of COVID, in the times of mental health crisis, emotional crisis, that they can look towards the people at our organization for help, or for a friend,” Wiebe said while reflecting on their first 10 years of operations.
Wiebe has served as Executive Director since July of 2017, having formerly worked as the Program Director dating back to June 2014.
And while they have held a steady course since opening in 2010, the year 2020 has provided them some heightened challenges and put a different focus on the needs of youth.
“One of the things that we’re able to see more than ever, because its been put into perspective, is just how important the mental health side of it, how important building it into our youth is.”
Wiebe noted that high school aged youth in Swift Current have a class schedule that does not allow them to go to school full time, and they’re not able to hang out with each other and do many of the activities they usually look forward to. Even a simple thing like not being able to invite people over to celebrate a birthday party is putting extra strain on youth.
“When you know it’s not coming you can see how that’s hung up and kind of created a real angst, a real kind of difficult situation for a lot of people emotionally, mentally. We’ve been able to add some resources to hopefully help kids that are willing to seek need.”
Wiebe also spoke about the importance of the relationships the staff are able to build with the participants. With The Center serving as a community of its own, the participating youth do not necessarily come for the counselling or programming, but rather to just come to play games or hang out with friends and the staff.
“Those relationships are what are meaningful for them. When you can’t have that level of relationship, when its been inhibited, that takes a toll,” he admitted.
“We really pride ourselves on the relationship factor of what we bring, and within our ministry and within our vision and our mission we’re here to love these kids no matter where they’re coming from in life. And with our partnerships throughout the community we’ve been able to really establish a solid foundation from churches to Social Services to just different people that have come forward to help.”
“We just want to continue to try and make a difference. Even when the odds are stacked against us, you shift your attention to other things that are still going to be effective.”
The Center has undergone a re-branding as they launch into their second decade, with new signage in place on the exterior wall of their 55 1st Ave. N.E. location.
“We’re not changing the vision or the mission, nothing drastic like that, it’s just more aesthetics,” he explained.
The front exterior of the building has received a fresh coat of paint plus a digital video billboard to announce events. The inside of the building has received a fresh paint job and they have installed some restaurant style booths for the youth.
During a celebration on November 19 they invited supporters to stop by their office to help celebrate the day. The day also featured the SCCYI staff and volunteers delivering cupcakes to individuals, businesses and agencies who have supported them over the decade.
“The Youth Center is not able to function or exist without our community, so we can hopefully forward that message to people,” Wiebe said of their chance to reach out in celebration of their anniversary.
“When we’ve been as blessed as we have, a thank you card just doesn’t feel like it does justice. And we just want people to know we’re very grateful. We don’t take the support, the donations and just the encouragement we’ve received over the years lightly.”
“Even in times like COVID it hasn’t ceased. We’ve seen still so many people, and even different people that have come along side us.”
The Center has a current opportunity for more people to get involved, as their recently launched mentoring program is in need of some additional support. They have right around 30 participants, and another eight are on a waiting list.
“We need mentors more than ever, and especially for young males. Eighty per cent of the kids on our list are young boys,” he noted.
“We’re just trying to bring services still that are hopefully going to make a difference, to create a positive impact on young lives.”
“Its been an interesting time to say the least. We’re still very encouraged. We’re always trying to find new ways how to serve and create opportunities for kids to succeed, even amongst the difficulties of what today’s societal issues they’re bringing, along with COVID.”
Wiebe also saluted the efforts of founding Executive Director Jim Magee, and noted they have been able to utilize Magee’s services as secondary councillor in order to provide extra mental health support during the pandemic.
“Jim is and will always be a huge part of the SCCYI. Between Pastor Kevin Snyder and East Side Church…there’s such a solid foundation of where The Center is today because of those guys.”
“When they had this vision to create a youth centre in the heart of Swift Current, it was just to create a light for kids walking in darkness. When you’re dealing with an at-risk youth population, and Jim, put in that situation, was able to create an organization from the ground floor that saw this aspect of care and empathizing for kids that they might not have experienced before in their lives.”
Wiebe feels The Center is poised to remain an important agency in the community for the upcoming decade, despite the initial challenges posed by the pandemic.
“We’re going to continue to try and make steps forward to bringing it back to as normal a programming as we can have without sacrificing safety,” he said.
“Our mission and vision doesn’t change, it just gets adjusted. It’s just one of those things that we have to evolve with the times. And we will. And we’ll try and continue to be a support for our community.”
“Our goal is, and always will be to work with youth and to try and make positive, long lasting relationships with these kids to see them succeed.”