Teenagers can play air hockey, foosball, go for a swim and get active with the City of Nanaimo and parks and rec department’s Youth Lounge program.
Operating out of Nanaimo Aquatic Centre since October 2015, and in partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Vancouver Island, Youth Lounge offers teenagers a place to socialize and get active on Thursdays from 3-7 p.m., beginning Oct. 11 and running for the remainder of the school year. Michelle Janes, with the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Georgia Barron, with city parks and rec, are program leaders.
“It’s just a safe, inclusive space for youth to come together, hang out with friends, try some fun activities and it gives them the chance to kind of make the space their own, so we really strive for that,” said Janes.
In addition to air hockey, board games and foosball, participants will get to used the pool and rink on occasion.
“They have the ability, through parks and rec, to go swimming at no cost,” said Janes. “We also are able to take them over to the skating rink at no cost. We go over as a program group, skate for their free time and then they have the ability to come back and finish the program here as well.”
Food is offered and can include pizza, granola bars, juice and water, said Barron and Janes.
Wi-Fi is offered, but participants don’t spend the whole time staring at their phones.
“I honestly see more personal interaction and communication through youth, so it’s a really nice balance,” said Janes. “Yes, they do utilize the Wi-Fi and it’s great to have it in the room, but we see a lot of social connection as well … we do offer video games in the room, but I find that’s one of the least popular activities. We have lots of interesting card games, some arts and crafts and really just social hang-out time.”
Drop-in sports programs are also offered by the city and Nanaimo Ladysmith school district with Spare Blox and Spare Blox Junior.
Spare Blox, for youths 13 to 18 years old, goes Wednesdays from 8-9:30 p.m. at John Barsby Secondary School, while Spare Box Junior goes Mondays from 7-8:30 p.m. at Fairview Community School, for children 11-14 years old.
“It’s essentially an opportunity for youth to come and use an open space,” said Barron. “We have the gym at both schools, we bring out a variety of equipment. It’s really youth-driven. They get to choose their own activities that they’d like to do and spend time with their friends.”
Megan Lum, city recreation coordinator, said the partnership with the two organizations have been good.
“The Youth Lounge has been a very successful partnership between the Boys and Girls Clubs and city since 2015,” said Lum. “We’re very excited to bring it back and we’re hoping to keep kids coming in here and expanding it and we’re keen to see what they’re interested in. We’ll keep adapting the program as they have different needs and interests that come up. Same with Spare Blox. We have a fantastic partnership … with the school district to be able to offer those programs for free in our community and I think that it’s a huge resource for kids to have a safe, supervised space where they can hang out at no cost.”
All the programs run during the school year, with the exception of days off and holidays.
For more information, see the parks and rec activity guide, available at rec centres, or online at www.nanaimo.ca under the ‘recreation and parks’ tab.