Upon walking into the Flipside Youth Centre, located on the second floor of the Sylvan Lake Community Centre, one can see the area is a hub for young people.
The Foosball tables click and clack as little rubber balls fly back and forth. Youth line the edges of pool tables, while others sit and mingle in the seating area before programming starts.
Younger youth mingle with the older kids, chatting idly as they await the arrival of the program coordinator. He arrives and the games begin.
Laughter echoes around the Flipside. While it may seem as though the youth are simply having some fun, in reality they are building skills they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
The Flipside Youth Centre, operated by Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) is more than just a place where kids go to play fun games. It is more so a mecca for the young people of Sylvan Lake – a place for them to call their own.
Within the walls of the newly renovated centre, youth learn how to build and maintain positive relationships from positive role models while simultaneously growing their self esteem and steering clear of high risk behaviours.
Krista Carlson, FCSS Youth Services Supervisor, explains the Centre’s focus in always on the opportunities and relationships that can be created within their four walls.
“I think some times the perception is that we are just an after school program – we go beyond just making sure kids are safe. We are encouraging them to be involved in their community,”said Carlson. “We may play really fun games and activities but those are just tools to help them build their lives in a positive manner.”
She explained Flipside focuses on ensuring youth have positive role models in their lives and have a safe place to go with engaging things to do when they get there and ultimately remove youth from the possibility of engaging in high risk behaviours like drugs, alcohol, and violence.
“It doesn’t happen over night but over time if kids stay involved in positive activities they are less likely to be involved in those high risk behaviours,” said Carlson. “They are going to be more likely to do well in school and maintain healthy relationships with their families and peers as well as be more likely to become better adults later in life. We want to keep kids progressively involved with Flipside,
“They may come to us when they are young and just looking for a place to have fun, but as they get older and stick with us they find more continuous positive opportunities that are more age appropriate such as leadership roles so they can become more involved and stay away from those risk taking behaviours.”
Sylvan Lake has been host to a youth centre since 2005 following the community rallying behind a local youth group who was advocating for a space of their own. This youth group included the current mayor of Sylvan Lake, Sean McIntyre.
“We’ve watched our young leaders step up and now they are leaders in our community today,” remembers Carlson, who has been with Flipside for seven and a half years. “The town agreed with the youth group at the time and said ‘Yes, we absolutely need a place that is just for young people,’ and the whole town rallied behind those young leaders.”
Over her time spent at Flipside, Carlson has watched as youth casually stopped by one day to play a game with one of their friends only to end up spending the following years developing into youth leaders with the Centre.
“I’ve watched kids come to us troubled and in desperate need of positive role models and then watch as they graduate valedictorian of their class and become one of the most amazing kids you’ll ever meet,” added Carlson. “Kids need attention and they’ll take it whether it is positive or negative – so if they don’t have a place to go where there are positive role models and engaging in positive activities then it’s likely you’ll see youth be more involved in those negative high risk behaviours.”
For full programming information regarding the Flipside Youth Centre’s after school and evening activities visitwww.sylvanlake.ca/fcss/youth/youth-centre or phone 403 887 1137.