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Bruce Power helps give Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) youth a place of their own

submitted by Dwight Irwin

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(L-R) Architect Jeanette Ladd, Saugeen Councillor Randy Roote, youth volunteers Richelle Ritchie and Jake Roote, Nicole Paddon of Bruce Power Corporate Affairs & Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) Chief Randall Kahgee

Saugeen First Nation youth have a new place to call their own, and their fingerprints are literally all over it.

The Aaron Roote Youth Centre will open its doors to the community in early-July after four years of planning and construction. Local teenagers have played a key role in the centre, from sitting on the planning committee to perfecting its design and even choosing the furniture that best suits their needs, said Saugeen First Nation Band Coun. Randy Roote.

Names of local youth, their messages of peace and love, and dozens of their handprints, as well as memories of Aaron, who died nearly a decade ago in a car accident, were painted, sealed and are forever enshrined on the floor of the facility 

This personal touch gives the new youth centre a comfortable feeling, welcoming community members inside to watch TV, play pool and board games, use newly installed computers, or just chat with friends in a safe environment.

The centre, which cost $675,000, is still in the early stages of fundraising. Bruce Power provided the committee with $75,000 for the project, and the company’s President and CEO believes it is money well invested.

“The Aaron Roote Youth Centre will provide the future lawyers, doctors, skilled trades workers and nuclear professionals from Saugeen First Nation with a safe place to begin the pursuit of their dreams,” Duncan Hawthorne said. “Bruce Power is incredibly proud of the youth of the community for their dedication in planning and building this wonderful centre, and I look forward to hearing about the successes its users achieve in the very near future.”

Coucillor Randy Roote said fundraisers are being planned for the coming months but donations will also be accepted and welcomed.

“The youth centre is going to be used as a gathering place,” Roote said. “Some kids may even bring their families here – it’s a place they can feel comfortable and talk through any problems they may be having. Youth may not feel like they can talk at home, so we hope this will be a neutral location where they can talk to their parents.”

The centre also features two wheelchair accessible ‘safe rooms,’ where youth can find solace from troubles they may be encountering at home or in the community. Each of the rooms is equipped with a new bed, dresser and private bathroom. The rooms are located behind locked doors and an emergency alarm is close at hand should a youth ever feel threatened while staying there. The teens on the building committee felt this was an important piece to include in the centre, said Richelle Ritchie, 19, who has been involved during the four-year planning and building process, along with three other youth.

“The opening of the centre really means a lot because the youth now have a place to go to feel safe,” Ritchie said. “It’s a really good feeling to see the centre done – it has been a long process.”

Architect Jeannette Ladd, who is also a resident of Saugeen First Nation, said the ‘round room,’ which is a large, open space where couches, tables and computers make for a great place for youth to hang out, symbolizes ‘flow,’ an important part of First Nations culture.

“There are no corners in the round room – everything flows into one another,” Ladd said. “It’s a warm, inviting room, while the others are more functional.”

The designers also went with a large roof to signify the importance of the building in the community, she added.

Chief Randall Kahgee said he is impressed by the centre and the youth of the Saugeen First Nation community.

“Their fingerprints are all over the building, and that’s reflected in the design,” Chief Kahgee said. “I’m proud of the youth for their work and effort in identifying a need in the community, and their dedication to making it happen. There have been a few speedbumps along the way in construction, but credit goes to the committee for sticking to their guns and doing what they felt was right for the youth of our community.”


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Monday, June 25, 2012