Youth centre opens for NAN students in Thunder Bay
Beulah Wabasse hopes the new youth centre will help Nishnawbe Aski Nation students. Her grandson Jordan Wabasse passed away in 2011 while attending high school in Thunder Bay.
Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School principal Jonathan Kakegamic attended the opening with a group of DFC students. Kakegamic feels the new youth centre will give his students another opportunity to get engaged with positive activities during after-school hours.
The late Jordan Wabasse’s grandmother believes the new youth centre at Victoriaville Centre in Thunder Bay will help students from Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities.
“It’s very hard coming out on your own,” said Beulah Wabasse, during the Nov. 1 opening ceremony for the new youth centre. “There are lots of challenges and obstacles to face, good and bad. With this new youth centre, we all have to put our minds together and help our future youth. There’s lots of them, even here in the City of Thunder Bay.”
Wabasse brought up the issue of the seven high school students from Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities who died while studying in Thunder Bay since 2000. Her grandson died in 2011 while attending high school at the Matawa Learning Centre in Thunder Bay.
“You all know about my grandson Jordan,” Wabasse said. “He was missing for three months and he ended up being found in the Kaministiquia River. To this day it’s still a mystery to myself and to others.”
Wabasse feels the new youth centre will give youth something to do and a place to look forward to visit after school.
“I hope this new youth centre will be very helpful for them,” Wabasse said. “There will be lots of programs and activities. The youth will have a chance to do hands-on experience and also be together with their own age group, from 13 to 18.”
Tom Kamenawatamin, president and CEO of Wasaya Group Inc., said the DFC students want a better quality of life while studying in Thunder Bay. Kamenawatamin noted the students have identified the need for a place to relax, meet friends, call home, use a computer or access spiritual services.
“The common goal of the parents, the leadership and the school is more graduates,” Kamenawatamin said. “In order to accomplish that, we have to have a safe environment, a healthy environment for the students to learn. That means they need to have someplace they can go after school hours instead of going to the streets and getting into negative activities.”
Kamenawatamin said the students need to have someplace they can go after school hours instead of hanging out on the streets.
“This is what the parents in our communities are asking for,” Kamenawatamin said. “A safe place where our youth can come and get their education so they can be prepared for their future.”
Kamenawatamin said there is plenty of support in Thunder Bay for the youth centre, noting that Dowland Contracting, a Wasaya partner, donated $25,000 towards the youth centre, through a $20,000 donation to Wasaya Weecheewaywin last year that is being used for the youth centre and the delivery of $5,000 worth of new furniture.
Although the youth centre is currently scheduled to operate as an 18-month pilot project, Kamenawatamin views it as a step towards the development of a permanent youth centre.
“It will be specifically geared towards the northern students according to their requirements,” Kamenawatamin said about a permanent youth centre. “We have support from Confederation College, and hopefully with this relationship the transition from high school to college will be easier for them.”
Dowland Contracting has also pledged up to $75,000 in planning and design work for a new high school building, complete with a student residence and activity centre.
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