Pictured: Heather Missen, left, and Jacey Burkholder, assistant principal at BCHS, right, are looking for volunteers for the new youth drop-in centre called the “Pit Stop.”
A new youth drop-in centre which hopes to open this summer in Bonnyville is looking for volunteers to help supervise before they can officially open. The “Pit Stop” hopes to run Thursday to Saturday evenings at the Pit at Bonnyville Centralized High School (BCHS). The goal of the centre is to provide teens aged 14 to 18 a place to go to make new friends, connect with peers, and hopefully alleviate problems related to teenage depression and suicide.
Organizer and committee member, Heather Missen, says the idea began after reading online about the lack of activities for teens in the community, and the news of teenage suicides only going up.
“There’s been a lot of concern on the Rant and Rave that there’s nothing for kids to do,” said Missen.
“And I think with social media blowing up it’s just throwing these kids into isolation with increased cyber-bullying. I brought it up once again [online] and I had a few people saying ‘I’m down for that.’”
That’s when Missen began reaching out to the local high schools to form a new drop-in centre committee. Despite limited response, three local youth pastors, a Town of Bonnyville councillor, and two teachers from BCHS agreed to join – including assistant principal, Jacey Burkholder.
Missen sent a survey to the four high schools in Bonnyville to gauge what activities they’d like to see done at the centre. There were 370 responses with movie nights being the most popular, followed by Minute to Win it activities, and video game nights.
To give teens more incentive to participate, the organizers are planning specific committees just for the teens themselves. They hope this “youth driven” focus will create more engagement.
“We’ve got a couple people who are already interested and we’re trying to get four groups of four to six teens going, so they can do one Saturday a month and organize their own event, whatever they choose to do that day,” said Missen.
“We think that more teens will be inclined to come because it’s not always run by adults, we’re only supervising. We’re only there to provide a connection to kids if they need it.”
The problem then becomes supervision – the more kids that show up means that more supervisors will have to as well.
“For the three nights we need two adults per night. If there’s more demand… then we can extend hours and extend evenings. It all depends how many kids are going to show up, how many volunteers are willing to come out, and we really need that commitment to be reliable.”
“We don’t expect volunteers to have any special straining, we just want them to be passionate about helping and trying to make a difference, and willing to socialize with them [teens].”
The volunteers situation heavily influences whether the group can begin on schedule for end of school, which they see as a vital time for this type of space.
As a teen, Missan says the drop-in centre where she grew up “without a doubt saved her life” and she still talks to people she met there to this day. She can resonate with those kids who are feeling isolated or just need somewhere to go for a few hours.
“It’s gonna take a little time for these kids to start trickling in…but we’ve got 7000 people in this area, so ten volunteers wouldn’t be too bad.”
Those interested in volunteering can email [email protected] to request the application form.