While the feeling is cold, something special is happening inside these walls. Upstairs in between a dance studio and a games room is the tutoring room which is slowly filling up with teens.
A brunette boy with glasses, Patrick Thompson, 16, sits at a small square table sipping a juice box with two other teenage boys. The Grade 11 student began volunteering at the John Howard Society in Belleville after his English teacher, told him about the YALE program.
“This room should be filled on Thursdays,” said Thompson.
Thompson said there aren’t enough volunteers for the Thursday afternoon youth program.
“Not many people want to volunteer, because they think it’s a waste of time,” said Thompson. “I’m not working, and its only two hours after school once a week.”
Thompson’s role as a volunteer is to overlook the students during their tutoring hour, then take part in free gym time with them.
“Seeing the kids dance is definitely my favorite part,” said Thompson with a laugh.
The Belleville John Howard building is home to the YALE (youth academic learning exposure) program. The after school program is for local youth ages 10-17. It runs from 3-5 pm every Thursday afternoon. The first hour is dedicated to the tutoring portion, and the second is open gym time.
One of the few students who are able to take advantage of the YALE program is 16-year-old Matt Snider. Snider was encouraged to join after returning from a school trip to Germany.
“I had fallen behind in schoolwork and needed a way to catch up… this program is really helping me in chemistry,” said Snider.
After a quick glance around the high-energy tutoring room, it is obvious there is one person at the center of this group. It’s director of the program, Brenda Gabriel.
Gabriel said the program provides opportunities for youth to discover different life passions, and propel them to a brighter future.
“This is a place where they can feel accepted, and somewhere they can call home,” said Gabriel.
As for the lack of volunteers, Gabriel is unsure the reasoning.
“People are busy, and can’t commit… if people want to volunteer, they will,” said Gabriel.
It’s not in the programs funding to pay for advertising so they rely on word of mouth to encourage people to volunteer.
The John Howard Society’s mission is to have an avenue for the youth of our community to explore, inspire, discover and achieve success for better wellness of life. The society has many future plans for the program including a dance program, boot camp and art classes.
Anyone interested in volunteering, donating or learning more about the programs offered to youth can call 613-968-6628.
Link to full article: Youth program encourages new skills