An Aboriginal youth mentorship program spearheaded by the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management (FKRM) got a welcome boost last Friday, when the province announced nearly $1.3 million in funding under the Neighbourhoods Alive! initiative.
The new money will be used to help enhance recreation opportunities for inner-city children and youth, among them FKRM’s Aboriginal Youth Mentorship Program, which partners university students (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) with Aboriginal high school students from Winnipeg’s core area.
“It’s about going where the kids are … and giving them positive solutions,” said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Steve Ashton, at a press conference Friday morning at the Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre. “It’s about realizing that kids have a lot to offer … isn’t it time we started giving our kids some support?”
The City of Winnipeg plans to use the provincial funds to increase recreation services provided to youth in Neighbourhoods Alive! communities, meaning more programming and longer hours of operation at 10 inner-city recreation centres: Turtle Island, Norquay Community Centre, Pritchard Park Rec Centre, Magnus Eliason Rec Centre, Central Community Centre, Burton Cummings Community Centre, Broadway Neighbourhood Centre, Central Park Community Centre, Ralph Brown Community Centre and Mayfair Recreation Centre. Planned improvements also include 20 new full- and part-time recreation leaders to plan and implement recreation programs, allowing for a 56% increase in hours of operation.
“With the new funding, there will be longer hours and weekends,” said Mayor Sam Katz after the press conference. “To me, this is exactly what the doctor ordered.”
Sports Programs in Inner City Neighbourhoods (SPIN) – a program that provides free summer soccer leagues and free volleyball, basketball and table tennis programs in the fall, winter and spring – will also be expanded thanks to the new funding.
In addition, a new community art initiative will be developed to bring creative arts programs into inner-city centres, and as mentioned, FKRM’s Aboriginal Youth Mentorship Program will continue to partner university students with teens, who work collaboratively to plan and deliver their own after-school “Rec and Read” program of physical activity, nutrition and education for early years students in North End and inner city schools.
“The Aboriginal Youth Mentorship Programs are designed to build on the strengths, talents and energy of Aboriginal youth, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to expand the programs so that more young people can take leadership for healthy living in their own neighbourhoods and schools,” said FKRM professor Dr. Joannie Halas.
The provincial funding commitment runs until March 31, 2011, with enhanced programming to be administered entirely by the City of Winnipeg.