When I was a teenager we hung out at the mall drinking Orange Julius smoothies while searching out new cds at Phantasmagoria. We had Brookdale Cinemas and The Port, we had regular video dances that crowded the hallways of our high schools, for a while we had ridiculous amount of bowling alleys per capita. There was The Aces and Colts games, Blockbuster meet ups and briefly a place called Mikey’s Fun Factory.
It’s a different world now that connects primarily through a screen but we as teens had places to just hang out and kick a hacky sack and maybe teens today need more of that and less isolation with screens. There’s not a lot of options for teens here to be teens in an unstructured way unless they have the privilege or the interest to be in an organized activity with peers that support them.
With a lack of suitable recreational spaces, Cornwall’s youth are bored and displaced leading to destructive behaviours. Add in the exasperated mental health challenges of a pandemic that enforced isolation during key social development times in their young lives. Cornwall Police Service has had a 55% increase in youth related occurrences and calls for service; many of those calls involve suicidal ideation and increased drug use.
“We as a community need to give them something to do and have a sense of belonging,” said Constable Casey MacGregor speaking on behalf of The Cornwall Youth Space Committee, a group of community partners including Cornwall Police Service and the Social Development Council advocating for the creation of a dedicated youth space at Alexander Park.
In order to build a safe, equitable and inclusive community for our youth, the committee has formed a Youth Advisory Council consisting of 15 youth representatives from diverse backgrounds, to collaboratively design the space. The envisioned hub includes vibrant gardens, gazebos, basketball courts, graffiti walls and WIFI but it reaches beyond the physical structures of a building – it’s about transforming lives and shaping a brighter future together.
The committee has considered every way that teens can get involved. “We are teaming up with local high schools to use their construction classes to help,” said Cst. MacGregor knowing that if inclusion begins at the base of the build a sense of pride and ownership will accompany.
The Cornwall Youth Space is currently seeking support through collaborative efforts to make this vision a reality. By fostering cohesion between youth, community partners, and law enforcement in order to nurture relationships that extend beyond just a centre. The goal is reduce youth related offences by creating a welcoming and inclusive haven but the by product of providing this environment is a positive impact generations to come.
For more information, to sponsor or to be involved visit www.cornwallyouthspace.ca