The youth community center Centre Jeunesse Unie held its annual general assembly last Tuesday to discuss the past year and address issues for the future. Young and old discussed and voted on various initiatives at the meeting.
Parents and teens who are members are can suggest and vote on various motions. The general assembly was chaired by youth training coordinator Yasin Poran along with Director Richard Vachon.
Both highlighted the particular challenges of the past year given the situation with COVID-19. “Nobody expected it and we had to do everything in a new way,” said Vachon.
The center has been open since 1989 and offers a place for local youth to gather and learn in a non-violent environment. The center’s mission is to accompany teens 12 to 17 years old through their formative years by offering educational and social activities.
During his commencement speech, Vachon touched on many of the particularities which affected the center this past year.
“I found this year difficult,” said Vachon, adding that it was even tougher on the young people in the area. “Time and time again, changes were happening in unpredictable ways and nothing could be controlled,” he added.
The director also added that he commended the resilience of the teens in the face of the pandemic and its effects on their lives.
“At this time of their life when socialization is so important, we have done everything in our power to keep the center open,” said Vachon.
That view was also shared by president Lyne Chonière. “I would like to congratulate our teenagers who have had to make sustained efforts to persevere in their academic progress,” she said in her opening remarks.
She added that this was broadly thanks to the continued support of the community and volunteers that make up the center.
“Unparalleled challenges have been overcome thanks to the solidarity, creativity and innovation shown by members of management, employees and volunteers,” she added.
One of the initiatives that was launched last year was that of a summer school program to help kids “boost their self-esteem and confidence so they would be able to return to school in September,” read the report.
“It was an opportunity for the young people to keep their abilities in French and mathematics,” read the report, adding that this was especially important for the many students who were going from grade 6 to secondary 1.
“The summer ended with a big party to reward the young people for their perseverance,” they added.
This was in addition to various mentoring and tutoring programs for students struggling at school. Schools would refer students to Centre Jeunesse-Unie and they would then take on their tutoring.
The Rêves D’Avenir program is another initiative to help vulnerable youth achieve their long-term goals. “Each young person creates their success plan with a volunteer and meets with them regularly to assess their progress,” read the report.
“This program has given me the chance and the opportunity to put my colour among the young people of Parc-Extension through homework tutoring,” said volunteer Diane Demgne, adding that “this commitment is an enriching experience.”
Nonetheless, the pandemic did have a serious effect on the centers’ finances and volunteer numbers. When compared to the 2019-2020 year, the center experienced substantial drops in financing and volunteer hours.
Auto financing dropped from $3,427 in 2019 to $397 in 2020, while general donations fell from $12,940 to $1,006 in the same period. The center attributes that sharp drop to the pandemic and its accompanying effects.
In 2019, there were over 10,000 sign-ups to activities hosted by the center while in 2020 that number dropped to just over 6,000. Volunteer hours also dropped from 832 hours to 466, a roughly 44% drop.
But the center did get access to special funding during the pandemic to keep operations running. This included $23,500 from Fondation Chagnon along with another $63,500 from the Fonds Urgence Action Communautaire (FUAC).
“It is important that we continue this mission,” said volunteer Francis Audet. “I hope that the foundation will be able to benefit from all the support they need to keep doing good,” he added.