Despite the challenges they face, at-risk youth can overcome a great deal with emotional support, friendship and a listening ear. Every day after school, The Salvation Army’s youth centre in Pembroke, Ont., offers programs that give youth, ages 12-18, a sense of belonging and motivation to succeed in life.
“I go to the centre every day of the week,” says Kassandra, 16. “I’ve been bullied most of my life and people at The Salvation Army have helped rebuild my confidence. I’d quit going to school because of how I was treated. I’m back now. Without this program I don’t know where I would go to socialize. I’d probably be getting into trouble somewhere.”
At the centre, youth find a welcoming, non-judgmental place with mentors, positive friendships and opportunities to participate in learning activities such as cooking, music, camping and mission trips.
“The centre is the best thing that ever happened to me,” says Tyler. “I learned social skills and how to play guitar, which improved my self-confidence. I used to be very shy and now I can get up on a stage to sing. I’ve learned about poverty and how to work with those less fortunate. The youth centre is a big part of what got me into the social service program at college.”
The majority of the youth come from low-income families, are in the foster care system or just don’t feel they belong anywhere.
“Positive relationships and a safe place to hang out can change the course of a life,” says Amanda Wilson, Program Director. “Without this program many youth would be sitting at home in their bedrooms or causing problems on the streets.”