Monday, May 29, 2017

Routes Youth Centre Newsletters

Helping young people dare to dream

By Debra Downey, Senior Editor - Dundas Star News

Photo by Debra Downey

The Routes Youth Centre has made Jessica dare to dream.

The 17-year-old Westdale Secondary School student was having difficulty finding a path for her life when she stepped through the doors of the centre.

“I had self-esteem issues and Routes helped me bring it way up,” said Jessica. “It was a comfortable environment and staff were very nice, and I just had a good time with everybody.”

Eight years later, Jessica’s future is clear…crystal clear.

Once she graduates from high school in June, Jessica will train as a chef for a year, before travelling to the west or east coast to serve as a cook on a navy ship through the Canadian Armed Forces.

Jessica is also involved with cadets, so combining her loves of cooking and the military is a perfect fit as a career — a path she would never have found with the support of Routes.

The bubbly and determined young woman is one of the shining examples of how Routes can make positive changes in the lives of young people. The drop-in and counselling program provides intervention, education and prevention for marginalized and at-risk in youth in the community. The goal is to help young people find socially productive and satisfying “routes” to pursue in their lives.

“It’s so hard to put into words a place that has done so much for you,” Jessica said of Routes. “It‘s kind of like my safe place, where I can come to and be myself and not be judged, and that’s important.”

Jessica attends a Routes Youth Centre program almost every night of the week. Along with a Friday night drop-in, Routes offers an after-school program for youth wanting to study and get help on school assignments; Dinner and Discussion to discuss world events and issues; Boys Night Out for young men; Girls Night Out for ladies only; Jive, which is aimed to get youth physically active; and Kids Talk, designed for younger kids to provide an opportunity to discuss relevant issues in their lives.

Through a Civic Leadership Program to promote volunteerism, Routes youth also participate in the 30 Hour Famine aimed at raising money to help the world’s hungry, Hearts for Haiti, scrap metal drives and leaf rake-a-thons.

Jessica said she enjoys volunteering in the community through Routes.

“I get to help in the community with people I can have fun with while getting the work done,” said Jessica.

Routes is financially supported almost entirely on donations. Its major annual fundraiser is a dinner and silent auction that takes place this year on Friday, Feb. 22 at the Dundas Lions Memorial Community Centre, 10 Market St. The theme for the evening is, quite appropriately, Daring to Dream. Doors open at 6 p.m. A brief update of Routes and its 2012 successes will follow dinner. Jessica is scheduled to say a few words about Routes’ impact on her life.

“Routes has made me dare to dream,” she said. “It has shown me that anything’s possible. You can get through anything if you have people who help you fight through it.”

Guest speaker at the 2012 Routes banquet, Pigskin Pete of Hamilton Tiger-Cats fame held a spellbound audience captivated as he spoke about the challenging circumstances early in his life.

“I wish there had been a place like Routes Youth Centre when I was a youth,” Dan Black told his audience. “My life might have been different.”

Merceddez finds path for her life thanks to Routes

By Debra Downey, Senior Editor - Dundas Star News

Photo by Debra Downey

Merceddez wasn’t accustomed to friendly faces.

The warm, enthusiastic welcome was one of the first things she noticed when she walked through the doors of the Routes Youth Centre.

“Everybody was so friendly. I wasn’t used to people being nice to me,” said Merceddez. “It was nice to have people say, ‘Hi,’ and ask me about my day.”

The Routes Youth Centre is a drop-in and counselling program that provides intervention, education and prevention for marginalized and at-risk youth in the community. The goal is to help young people find socially productive and satisfying “routes” to pursue in their lives.

Merceddez starting attending programs at the centre about seven years ago. Her favourite activity is Girls Night Out, a designated time for young women to get together to discuss issues like body image, relationships, friendships and drugs.

Along with these more serious topics, the girls also kick back and enjoy manicures, pedicures and facials.

“Routes has given me confidence,” said Merceddez, now 19. “I didn’t respect myself before and I felt very little about myself. Routes has helped me build up my self-esteem, and the staff have become like older sisters.”

Merceddez was one of the speakers at last year’s Routes Youth Centre gala, the group’s major fundraising event. She said she was “petrified” to speak in front of a crowd but put her fears aside to tell people about her childhood and the impact Routes has had on her life. Merceddez was shocked to receive a standing ovation from those in attendance.

Merceddez has just completed a bridge program through Mohawk College that has allowed her to attain both college and high school credits. Her life in on track, thanks to Routes.

“Routes is strength, family and courage,” she said. “Routes does a really good job of welcoming everybody and making everyone feel happy and loved.”

Merceddez even has a solid plan for her future…well, sort of. Right now, it’s a toss up between becoming a book editor because she “absolutely loves” reading, or a personal support worker because she wants to help other people, especially seniors.

This year’s Routes Youth Centre dinner and silent auction takes place on Friday, Feb. 22 at the Dundas Lions Memorial Community Centre, 10 Market St., in Dundas. The theme is Daring to Dream. Doors open at 6 p.m. A brief update of Routes and its 2012 successes will follow dinner.

Last year’s guest speaker, Pigskin Pete, also known as Dan Black, held a spell-bound audience captivated as he spoke about the challenging circumstances he faced early in his life.

“I wish there had been a place like Routes Youth Centre when I was a youth,” he said. “My life might have been different.”

Support of the Routes Youth Centre gala helps fund staff and programming to assist youth. Programs include a Friday night drop-in; an after-school program for youth wanting to study and get help on school assignments; Dinner and Discussion to talk about world events and issues; Boys Night Out; Girls Night Out; Jive, which aims to get youth physically active; and Kids Talk, designed for younger kids to meet with staff to discuss relevant issues in their lives.

Through a Civic Leadership Program to promote volunteerism, Routes youth also participate in the 30 Hour Famine to raise money to help the world’s hungry, Hearts for Haiti, scrap metal drives and leaf rake-a-thons.

Centre a route to the future

By Debra Downey, Senior Editor - Dundas Star News

Photo by Debra Downey

The impact the Routes Youth Centre has had on TJ's life is pretty simple.

He’s the person he is today because of the guidance, camaraderie and positive role models he discovered at the centre seven years ago.

“Routes has let me know that I am better than I think I am, and I can do anything if I put my mind to it,” said TJ.

“Routes has made me more confident and outgoing. It has made me the man I am and the man I want to be.”

Routes is a drop-in and counselling program that provides intervention, education and prevention for marginalized and at-risk in youth in the community. The goal is to help young people find socially productive and satisfying “routes” to pursue in their lives.

TJ was introduced to Routes through a friend, but quickly found his own niche.

“Everyone was very welcoming,” said TJ of his first visit. “When I came, I didn’t know anybody, but everyone was so friendly that I came back the next week by myself.”

At a towering six feet five inches, TJ is one of Routes’ volunteers extraordinaire. He has lent his brawn to outreach programs like fall rake-a-thons, scrap metal drives and fundraising corn roasts. Through Routes’ Civic Leadership Program, TJ has also been involved in the 30-Hour Famine and the Homework Club, and often plays basketball with younger teens during a program called Jive, which provides the opportunity for physical activity while having fun with peers, Routes staff and volunteers.

TJ is generally involved in Routes programming three times a week. Along with the Friday night drop-in, he enjoys Boys Night Out, when the centre’s young men get together with male staff for a movie and munchies. Topics of the films often generate a discussion on issues pertaining to the youths’ lives.

During Dinner and Discussion, youth are encouraged to discuss world events and issues.

TJ said his favourite aspect of “D and D” are the topics that are addressed, things like poverty, euthanasia and bullying.

TJ is a graduate of St. Mary Catholic Secondary School and is biding his time working at a fast-food restaurant before getting the okay to join the army.

TJ’s “end goal” is to become a police officer.

“I’ve always wanted to help people,” he said.

The Routes Youth Centre is financially supported almost entirely on donations. Its major annual fundraiser is a dinner and silent auction that takes place this year on Friday, Feb. 22 at the Dundas Lions Memorial Community Centre, 10 Market St. The theme for the evening is Daring to Dream. Doors open at 6 p.m. A brief update of Routes and its 2012 successes will follow dinner.

The 2012 guest speaker, Pigskin Pete, also known as Dan Black, held a spell-bound audience captivated as he spoke about the challenging circumstances early in his life.

“I wish there had been a place like Routes Youth Centre when I was a youth,” he said. “My life might have been different.”

Along with Jive, Dinner and Discussion, Boys Night Out and the Friday night drop-in, Routes also offers an after-school program for youth wanting to study and get help on school assignments, Girls Night Out for the ladies only and Kids Talk, designed for younger kids to discuss relevant issues in their lives.

Copyright 2017 by Dundas Youth Chaplaincy