Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op (CNYC)
The Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op (CNYC) is a skills building and alternative education program in the inner city of Saskatoon. The Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op was established in 1996 when Riversdale community members created a community-based organization. The premise was to learn by doing, and the CNYC created opportunities for youth to engage with each other and their community through creative economic activities based on environmental and co-operative principles.
In 1998, the CNYC was recognized by the Government of Saskatchewan Minister of Economic and Co-operative Development, as being a model for other communities to be aware of when developing alternative economic development for their inner city communities.
The Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op has grown and changed over the past 12 years as it has attempted to address the needs of at risk youth. Currently, CNYC's programs are designed for youth between the ages of 15 and 25. The majority of the youth who attend CNYC are unsuccessful in the regular school system. Many of them come from situations of poverty and homelessness; they struggle with gang involvement, criminal activity, addictions and violent behavior.
The Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op is a safe place for marginalized youth in Saskatoon. At CNYC the youth have the opportunity to reconnect to school and the community, to learn marketable skills, to build self-esteem and leadership skills and to learn how to make positive choices for their lives.
Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op Programs
"I was out of school for about a year doing nothing....Now I'm in a really good program, that gives me an opportunity to turn my life around....The great part about it is that I'm actually wanting to go to work and school, because I enjoy what I do, either working in the shop or in school. It's the people working around me and those that I work with that makes me enjoy it all."
(Youth participant at CNYC)
CNYC's carpentry program teaches a variety of carpentry skills and provides job training skills to youth. The youth are taught how to make patio chairs, compost bins, rain barrels, shelving units, bed frames and night stands. The youth also learn general employment skills such as punctuality, respecting their supervisor and the importance of attendance. The Carpentry program employs three wood workers and the products made by the youth. The profits are used to pay the youth participants a training allowance.
Community Credit Program
This is a program that connects the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Division, with the hands-on work of community agencies such as the CYNC. It recognizes the need for an alternative learning environment for youth who are not succeeding in the regular school system. Youth at CNYC are able to earn high school credits outside of the traditional classroom setting in areas such as English, Math, Native Studies, Science, Practical Arts, Computer Processing and Adult 12. The Community Credit Program employs accredited teachers and education assistants and uses provincially approved curriculum.
Urban Gardening and Mentorship Program
One of CNYC's newest programs is our urban gardening program. In April of 2007, with the help of a federal homelessness grant, CNYC purchased the building next door with an attached greenhouse. The greenhouse was used to grow bedding plants in the spring and summer of 2007 and this year, the CNYC has secured 3-year funding from Heifer International to develop an urban gardening program that will include raised bed gardening, aquaponics, bee keeping, canning, preserving and composting. This program includes a mentorship component with younger youth in neighbouring elementary schools and community groups. CNYC's youth will teach the younger youth how to plant urban gardens, different composting techniques, nutrition and healthy cooking and how everyday choices can have a positive impact on the environment.
Word on the Street
CNYC publishes a monthly newsletter written and edited by youth. The newsletter gives youth in the inner city a voice and promotes creativity and literacy. All youth are welcome to submit an article, drawing or photograph for Word on the Street. The majority of the articles are submitted by youth from an alternative education program in Saskatoon called Opening Doors and by the CNYC youth. The newsletter is edited and formatted by the CNYC youth.
The following are some samples from the June 2007 issue:
"I wish our culture, our young aboriginal people could just find their inner strength, inner spirit and realize that our world has changed so much that there's no time to sit around. People watch the world go by when there are so many advantages out there for themselves, not just drugs."
"When you start beating up people you love while you are under the influence there is no point to getting high... I used to get high on almost everything I could get my hands on. I thought I was so cool but I wasn't..."
In the summer months CNYC offers a bike repair co-op where youth of all ages can come and learn to use tools to fix their bicycles or build a bicycle using donated frames and parts. This is one of our most popular programs.
CNYC has offered a number of First Nations cultural classes including beading soapstone carving and a class about learning Cree. These courses offer any youth who are interested in a chance to develop a sense of cultural pride while helping to keep cultural traditions alive.
At the heart of the Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op is the belief that marginalized youth need to be given a chance to develop to their full potential. Often these youth are judged only by their actions without a clear understanding of what led to those actions. The Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op seeks to help youth to dream about new possibilities for their lives. It's a hands-on approach. Youth build self esteem as they learn how to build furniture or while watching something they planted grow and bear fruit.
"CNYC is special and important because it strives to show youth that they are valuable. Regardless of what they have experienced in their past and regardless of what they are experiencing now, they can come to this place and be treated like human beings, who have gifts and potential, challenges and fears. And as youth spend more time here, they develop the courage to believe that yes, they are indeed valuable, and that they do have something to offer to the world." - (Past CNYC program coordinator)
The Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op is supported by an adult board and staff. We seek the input and feedback of the youth involved in our programs through weekly youth advisory meetings. All of the youth who attend the Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op are able to attend the meetings. The meetings are entirely youth run. They have a youth chair person who sets the agenda and runs the meeting. It is an opportunity for the youth to help set the direction of the CNYC's programs and learn to communicate and work together. It also helps the youth take ownership of the CNYC, helping them to recognize that their opinions and needs are important and that they can work together to create a place that is truly theirs.
Anita Verlangen is the Executive Director of the Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op. She obtained an Education Degree in 1995 and has been working with youth and children for over 20 years. She has a passion for social justice and has worked with youth and adults to raise awareness about AIDS, sweatshops, trade justice, poverty and the environment. Her current work at the Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op focuses on addressing issues of poverty and marginalization locally by providing a skills and education program for at risk youth.