By Lethbridge Herald on October 2, 2020.
In a trying and uncertain time, Youth One is ready to introduce a little normalcy again.
The centre, located at 13 Avenue and 13 Street North, is opening its doors Sunday after being shut down for nearly seven months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, Youth One is back for its students, allowing limited capacity of 20, with new programming and a facelift of sorts.
“We are looking so forward to it,” said Noah Biddlecombe, program director for Youth One. “It’s been seven months since we had students in here. I think it was the 13th or 14th of March when we last had a student in here.
“I think a lot of them are excited to get some normalcy. A lot of them are excited to go back to school because life is starting to get familiar.”
With the reopening and pandemic protocols that come with it, there are some program changes at the facility, which opened in 2014.
“We used to do just general drop-ins by middle schools and high schools, so we would see at 80 or 90 students here on a drop-in day,” said Biddlecombe. “Obviously, that doesn’t really work right now with COVID. Our facility really isn’t that big.
“So we’re going to have some smaller groups, about 20 students, instead of larger groups. I’m really excited to see how we can connect with 20 students at a time and build those relationships a lot more than if you’ve got 80 students.”
From March to May, Youth One worked at connecting with students online.
“We stopped the same day the schools did,” said Biddlecombe. “So the students were losing every normal part of their lives. For us, a lot of it at the beginning was trying to figure out how to offer the support that is so crucial here to students who are now struggling even more so with mental health because everything has changed.”
By July, the Youth One staff — working remotely up until that point — returned to the facility and began the makeover.
“We came back in July and re-did all of the outside,” said Biddlecombe. “We painted everything outside and put up some new features, so it’s looking quite fresh upstairs. We didn’t do too many construction projects inside. We actually repainted the whole building inside two years ago.”
Walking through the main doors, the students are still greeted with the sight of an ideal hangout.
A half pipe and climbing wall sit on the far side of the room. As well, air hockey, fooseball and pool tables are set up in addition to computer stations and TV complete with an Xbox, one on the main floor and another downstairs.
Downstairs is a kitchen and concession while an art room complete with markers and paints are upstairs.
Of course, pandemic protocols have also been met with the reopening.
“We have our hand sanitizers all around the building,” said Biddlecombe. “We actually used to have quite a few fabric couches in the building. We’ve removed all the fabric couches and replaced them with leather or fabric that we can wipe down. So we can make sure everything is always clean and sanitized for each group.”
Biddlecombe has three full-time and six part-time staff at Youth One and is still looking for volunteers.
“Before if we had about 80 students we needed about 10 volunteers four times a week,” he said. “Now we need four volunteers for 20 students.”
Those interested can visit http://www.youthone.ca for volunteering, programming or any other information.
“There’s an application form they can fill out,” said Biddlecombe. “They will get sent to me and I will meet with them.”
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