At-risk youth added some colour Wednesday to the business skills they've been learning in their Future Cents program. They also added some colour to downtown Prince George.
The personal development initiative teaches young people how to better prepare for the job market, entrepreneurship, and higher education. It is especially for street-involved youth. Part of their program theme was downtown beautification, so they installed more than a dozen decorative tiles to a drab wall in the city's core.
Each Future Cents student painted at least one and sometimes multiple tiles. They were made of wood and painted with social awareness images and messages. They were super-glued to the generally blank wall at Positive Living North on Second Avenue near Vancouver Street.
"We have a partnership already with the Fire Pit [drop-in centre] and Positive Living North so when these guys decided to do tiles, their themes of anti-bullying and gay pride and other inspirational messaging were a good fit. Positive Living North is behind all those things," said Future Cents supervisor Alanna Gautreau.
"Positive expression through public art was a good idea to us," said Vanessa West, executive director of PLN and the Fire Pit. "This wall is in a part of town used heavily by the business community so we want that sector of society to see these messages and know it came from some creative youth who are working hard to improve themselves."
For Marc Cragg, 19, who aspires to be a professional artist, it was a chance to exercise his creative muscles. For 18-year-old Jason Morgan "it was something we could do to help out the community," while 21-year-old Linden Wood said "it's about downtown beautification. That's important to me. The Canada Winter Games are coming. We need to spruce up downtown."
In addition to the tiles, the students also built benches and used recycled tires, painted with bright colours, to make planters. These were distributed around the city to places like the Chamber of Commerce, Sexual Assault Centre (SOS), John Howard Society, the Fire Pit, the Association Advocating for Women and Children and in front of Positive Living North.
Future Cents runs with a set group of youth - a cohort of about a dozen - every day for about four months. The current group will be finished their time in the program at the end of next week. This cohort devoted about half of their day to the beautification project and the other half of the day to other job readiness and life-skill development. It is funded primarily by the Skills Link department of Service Canada.