There’s a location in Castlegar where the folks who come around can find an accepting, mostly informal environment, somewhere they can feel at ease.
It’s a portable at Twin Rivers Elementary, and stopping by on June 15 gave a visitor a chance to look in on a scene that looked a lot like home.
The group of a dozen or so young people was enjoying a bit of a wind up at the end of the school year. There was pizza and juice and the kids were chowing down ahead of heading out to burn it off on the ball diamond.
Three of them: Paula Reitan, Brayden Campbell and Adam Fasthuber had a word about 360 between courses.
“I’ve been in the 360 program since grade 5,” said the grade 7 Paula. “I’ve been with them for a long time so it’s like an extended family… it’s pretty neat. We all get along, well, not always, but still, it’s a pretty cool thing.”
Paula’s looking forward to taking part in a mentor program when she’s in high school. “We can come back and mentor the kids in 360, and I’m going to try and do that next year.”
“I go pretty much every day of the week,” said Adam. We get to come here after school and hang out. We get to play games… a bit of music… it helps teach us leadership skills, that kind of thing.”
With a couple of amps, guitar, bass and a set of drums in the portable it’s obvious where a good deal of the creative energy of the 360 group is directed, and the musical component is valued by Brayden who is also a devoted mountain biker.
“It’s improved me a lot with drumming,” said the player who’s been at it for about four years. “Now I’m way better.”
Mentor/supervisor Kyle Burk is clearly well-suited to his role, and, just as clearly, liked and respected by the kids.
“He’s nice,” said Brayden of Burk. “He likes to involve everyone. He doesn’t let anyone feel put down, and he helps them with their problems.”
A few comments from Kyle Burk set the stage for a visitor’s departure and some ball being played on a beautiful mid-June afternoon.
“It’s been running for five years,” Burk explained, “and the idea behind 360 is that we’re developing well-rounded young people. We want to be able to encourage all types of kids, whether you be interested in sports, academics, arts… it’s a place to come and share those ideas.”
A strong emphasis is also placed on volunteerism and community involvement, related Burk.
“We want them to feel that it’s not school, it’s not home, it’s a place where they can be themselves. We still have a prime directive to encourage respectful behavior.”
Kyle Burk concluded: “Ultimately they feel comfortable to be here and want to come, and they feel they’re going to come away from it with something.”