Some Parksville high school students are advocating for the city to consider building a youth centre.
Five Ballenas Secondary School students presented to city council’s June 20 regular meeting, with a plan for a proposed centre they hope will create a safe, inclusive space for young people, offering affordable meals, exercise, learning spaces and mental and physical health support.
The group of Grade 11 students, made up of Grace Dyck, Sofia Shaw, Karissa Hargreaves, Shirley Craig and Jenna Chomolok, said almost all Ballenas graduates plan to leave the district after high school, partially because they feel there is a lack of support for youth in the area.
“The whole community benefits from the uplift of our youth,” said Dyck, who mentioned the presenting students live in Parksville, Errington and Nanoose. “If we foster the talents and passions of youth, while providing them with a safe and secure space to eat, study and be themselves, they will be more likely to stay.”
The students pointed to a May 21 online PQB News poll, which found 76 per cent support for the idea, as well as a petition they circulated online and in-person, which gathered 15 digital signatures and 95 physical signatures.
The group even drew up a floor plan for a proposed building. The first floor includes a cafe, gym, office, gender-neutral washrooms and vending machines. The planned second floor showed a mental/physical health support room, library, study hall, rec room and gender-specific washrooms.
Health services could include a nurse, STI testing and access to contraception, according to the presentation.
A gym/community space could also be rented to community groups. Other suggested ideas include murals by local artists and a fish tank, the latter being a very popular request, according to the students.
The mayor and council said they were impressed with the idea and presentation.
Coun. Marilyn Wilson suggested the BGC Central Vancouver Island or other local community centres could also be a good option for youth programming or space. The students said they would be happy to use or share an existing community space.