It’s late in the afternoon at the LINC Youth Centre in Courtenay. A few teens hover near the concession at the entrance. At the other end, several boarders use the indoor skatepark.
Between these spots is a media arts centre that doubles as an equipment room. Inside sits Elijah Woodcock, who is rapping out a tune to a beat emanating from a computer.
The 16-year-old Courtenay resident writes songs and finds beats on Youtube. The songs are about anything and everything: “sending out good messages,” says the Glacier View Secondary student who has been rapping as a hobby the past few years. One of his tunes is dubbed The LINC Story.
“Sometimes I just write down my feelings,” said Elijah, a LINC regular since age nine. “I’m in here a lot. It’s a good place to be kids. Good place to hang out, good place to socialize.”
He says, too, it is a place where young people can speak about personal matters with staff members.
Elijah is a self-professed loner, or “wanderer,” but he has on occasion performed some of his material beyond the confines of his studio at the LINC. For instance, he has rapped at an open mic night at the centre.
“I’ve seen him come through a lot,” youth services co-ordinator Kristine Klupsas said.
Elijah is one of many LINC patrons in the nine- to 18-year age bracket, some of whom can be called ‘at risk.’
“It’s not the majority of kids, but the fact that for the few who do come and use the space, and do use it as a resource, and knowing that there’s caring adults here who will hopefully help guide them through those difficult times, is really important,” Klupsas said.
The centre offers a host of low-cost drop-in programs, and annual events such as the Young Ones versus Old Ones Road Hockey Tournament. The haunted house is always a popular attraction come Halloween.
Klupsas said 60-80 youth will show up on a winter night. On Thursdays and Fridays, the centre hosts special needs groups from the Child Development Centre.
“It gets used by a huge range of kids,” she said, noting some of the Thursday and Friday users are attending other days without their special needs group, thereby “transitioning over and feeling comfortable enough to come by themselves.”
One in particular has joined the LINC youth council.
The council plans events such as video game tournaments and bake sales, and organizes the occasional field trip. Staff is encouraging the group to give back to the community by way of services such as garbage collection.
At present, the council consists of seven boys from nine to 13 years. Council member Brendan Horwood, 13, has been coming to the centre most days for the past two or three years.
“I definitely made a lot of friends here,” said Brendan, a Grade 8 student at Lake Trail Secondary.
Twelve-year-old Aiden Irvine, a Grade 7 student at Queneesh Elementary, also sits on the council. It was only when they started attending LINC did Brendan and Aiden realize they are related.
“Turns out we’re cousins,” Brendan said.
Most council members are in their second year, confident enough to take on a leadership role with tween (9 to 12) users.
“We try to keep it fun,” said youth worker Alexis Forbes, who facilitates the council. “It’s a good resume builder, too, because they’re showing commitment to something.”
She notes a former council member who landed a job at Wendy’s recently contacted her for a job reference at London Drugs.
“There’s that piece of it, too,” Forbes said.
The LINC is located at 300 Old Island Hwy., across from Lewis Park. For more information, call (250) 334-8138 or visit www.facebook.com/TheLINCyouthcentre.