YCC – Youth Centres of Calgary (YCC) is a registered non-profit organization that operates a “home away from home” after school and during the summer months for at-risk kids in an underserved and low-income community in SE Calgary.
The data is clear that there are a lot of kids in Calgary who come from home environments that face serious economic and social challenges and already struggle in life. This is evidenced by youth seeking membership in gangs, committing violent crime and theft, and leaving school at young ages. This has only increased since the pandemic.
For kids whose lives are full of chaos and uncertainty, a welcoming, home-like place where they can have a nutritious meal, a chance to engage in activity, get help with homework and make healthy connections with others greatly enhances the probability that they will thrive now and in their adult lives. This is good for society. We have seen this outcome.
YCC – Youth Centres of Calgary was established in 2018 by Jane Wachowich, a former lawyer and businessperson. She established the replicable youth centre model in a first successful centre in Calgary’s NE, which was inspired by her experience working in the inner-city projects of Chicago many years ago. There, she learned that children who struggle in their community and home lives need and want a safe place to “be a kid”, have access to food, and to connect regularly with one adult who truly cares. That is what YCC provides daily to many vulnerable kids in Calgary’s SE community of Ogden.
The effects of poor mental health, crime and lack of success in school on the community is enormous, and can be reduced with early intervention. The ultimate gains to society are quantifiable, while the enjoyment and quality of life that is gained in the process, “one kid at a time” within a community is immeasurable.
In detail, the youth centre gives underserved kids what they need/want every day. YCC:
• Serves youth, ages 10 to 15, from 3:00 to 6:00 pm daily, has 150 registered kids and an average attendance of 30 youth each day.
• Operates out of a welcoming, warm, home-like setting
• Is free, non-denominational and inclusive, and kids are welcome to drop in as they please.
• Is located in a high-risk area of the city, within walking distance of school or home.
• Offers non-scheduled, optional activities and opportunities for youth to establish meaningful, supportive connections with healthy adults
• Nurtures resilience and self-confidence through mentoring, homework help, games, sports coaching, arts, and music lessons.
• Is open every weekday at breakfast and during after school hours when youth are at most risk of getting into or causing trouble.
• Provides daily hot meals and healthy snacks.
• Provides free registration on competitive sports teams for kids who are otherwise unsupported financially and logistically to engage in club sports.
• Offers free summer day camps to all kids, 9-15, for sports, art, music and nutritious food.
YCC’s volunteer team is comprised of a group of passionate Calgarians with a proven track record of leadership, talents and skills and brings a deep pocket of relevant professional and personal experiences and connections. The operational team is led by Jane and includes qualified university-educated staff and volunteer practicum students from local universities.
Together, we believe that the programs and people that we offer daily to vulnerable youth in Calgary can alter the course of the lives of kids who are not otherwise destined to thrive, “one kid at a time”. The future of Calgary depends on a strong next generation, and we are determined to provide a grassroots levelling of the playing field for our city’s youth every day.
Using the Ogden house as a template, our goal is to establish a second centre in another vulnerable SE community.