It’s a hard time to be a youth.
That is the belief of Jake Schellenberg, executive director of Wolf Creek Youth Unlimited (WCYU), who said that the mission of the organization is to “See the hope and potential in every young person.”
That makes what the organization wants to do for young people pretty simple.
“Our desire is just to give them a chance.”
As the name might suggest, Youth Unlimited is not limited to any kind of youth. Schellenberg said WCYU works with a variety of youngsters coaching elite athletes, mentoring young leaders and working with what would be considered ‘at risk’ youth.
Youth Unlimited has its roots in the religious community.
Schellenberg said the club was formed out of interest from some of the local churches and still has much support from those groups, as well as the corporate world.
Schellenberg added that, while the roots of WCYU are religious, the organization still wishes to remain relevant to all youth, regardless of beliefs. As such there is no affiliation between WCYU and any particular faith.
“That’s deliberate, we want to stay very neutral and relevant,” said Schellenberg.
For youth who are faith-minded, WCYU does provide opportunities to work with them as well.
Schellenberg said that WCYU often works with the local church youth groups and has a group at the high school that talks about faith and faith-issues. WCYU even has a breakfast program where about 30 students come to have breakfast and pray in the school.
Wolf Creek Youth Unlimited has now existed in the area for about two decades, said Schellenberg.
About four years ago, he and the rest of the group decided to make themselves more accessible and available to the community. As a result, the YU-Turn Centre, located on 50 St. in Lacombe, was born.
Today, the YU-Turn Centre is used for a variety of purposes.
It hosts drop-in nights for local youth, WCYU is able to run programs like Stepping Stones out of the centre, and the centre is even used by other organizations that partner with WCYU from time to time.
Schellenberg said the constant challenge for the group is staying relevant with youth. He added that culture is constantly changing, and rapidly so, as such WCYU is always looking for ways to stay current with today’s young people.
One way to accomplish this goal is by working in schools to stay in close contact with students and young people.
Schellenberg said that WCYU has done all kinds of things within the schools of Lacombe and area from running video game clubs for students who have trouble connecting with others to missions trips.
Mission trips are something WCYU does every spring break and are quite successful, said Schellenberg.
Usually about 50 students participate in each trip. They have been to Africa with A Better World, to Belize, to Mexico and even to the inter-city of Vancouver for mission trips.
“(The trips are) just to expose them to the real world and to poverty and to challenge them to do something about it,” said Schellenberg.
As for other events put on by WCYU throughout the year, it varies constantly, said Schellenberg.
There are some regular events outside of the organization’s programming, like monthly joint youth group concerts and drop-in sessions, but also one-time events like the street festival that was held in conjunction with Lacombe Days recently.
Over the last 20 years, WCYU has also made a strong effort to forge partnerships with every other youth agency possible.
As such, WCYU now has a network where they can share resources between other groups in the community, thereby serving youth even more efficiently.
“We try to collaborate with just about everyone out there,” said Schellenberg. “We find that we are probably the largest youth-serving agency in the community. Often times we have a lot more resources than other people have so we want to share them.”
Schellenberg added that WCYU believes that having one large network sharing resources and looking out for the needs of youth is better than a number of smaller ones.
“We really feel like a collective youth voice is much more healthy than many voices,” said Schellenberg.
Through its programming, WCYU services about 75 youth a week, he said. However, he added that it is difficult to keep track of how many youth take advantage of all the services, including drop-ins and other events, put on by the organization.