By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
The Routes Youth Centre has made Jessica Cryderman dare to dream.
The 17-year-old Westdale Secondary School student was having difficulty finding a path for her life when she stepped through the doors of the centre.
“I had self-esteem issues and Routes helped me bring it way up,” said Jessica. “It was a comfortable environment and staff were very nice, and I just had a good time with everybody.”
Eight years later, Jessica’s future is clear...crystal clear.
Once she graduates from high school in June, Jessica will train as a chef for a year, before travelling to the west or east coast to serve as a cook on a navy ship through the Canadian Armed Forces.
Jessica is also involved with cadets, so combining her loves of cooking and the military is a perfect fit as a career — a path she would never have found with the support of Routes.
The bubbly and determined young woman is one of the shining examples of how Routes can make positive changes in the lives of young people. The drop-in and counselling program provides intervention, education and prevention for marginalized and at-risk in youth in the community. The goal is to help young people find socially productive and satisfying “routes” to pursue in their lives.
“It’s so hard to put into words a place that has done so much for you,” Jessica said of Routes. “It‘s kind of like my safe place, where I can come to and be myself and not be judged, and that’s important.”
Jessica attends a Routes Youth Centre program almost every night of the week. Along with a Friday night drop-in, Routes offers an after-school program for youth wanting to study and get help on school assignments; Dinner and Discussion to discuss world events and issues; Boys Night Out for young men; Girls Night Out for ladies only; Jive, which is aimed to get youth physically active; and Kids Talk, designed for younger kids to provide an opportunity to discuss relevant issues in their lives.
Through a Civic Leadership Program to promote volunteerism, Routes youth also participate in the 30 Hour Famine aimed at raising money to help the world's hungry, Hearts for Haiti, scrap metal drives and leaf rake-a-thons.
Jessica said she enjoys volunteering in the community through Routes.
“I get to help in the community with people I can have fun with while getting the work done,” said Jessica.
Routes is financially supported almost entirely on donations. Its major annual fundraiser is a dinner and silent auction that takes place this year on Friday, Feb. 22 at the Dundas Lions Memorial Community Centre, 10 Market St. The theme for the evening is, quite appropriately, Daring to Dream. Doors open at 6 p.m. A brief update of Routes and its 2012 successes will follow dinner. Jessica is scheduled to say a few words about Routes’ impact on her life.
“Routes has made me dare to dream,” she said. “It has shown me that anything’s possible. You can get through anything if you have people who help you fight through it.”
Guest speaker at the 2012 Routes banquet, Pigskin Pete of Hamilton Tiger-Cats fame held a spellbound audience captivated as he spoke about the challenging circumstances early in his life.
“I wish there had been a place like Routes Youth Centre when I was a youth,” Dan Black told his audience. “My life might have been different.”
Tickets for the banquet are $50 per person. Call 905-627-4334 or 905-929-0572. For more information, visit www.routesyouthcentre.ca