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Fort Macleod Kids First and FCSS hire community youth worker

Katarina Meyer is the new community youth worker in Fort Macleod.

Katarina Meyer is the new community youth worker in Fort Macleod.

Katarina Meyer’s childhood shaped the decisions that would make her the new community youth worker in Fort Macleod.
Meyer’s parents for years opened their Coaldale home to children as foster parents, an experience that the young Katarina embraced.
“I grew up around kids who needed a little extra help,” the 22-year-old Meyer said Friday, adding she has an aunt who was a child and youth care worker. “I was drawn to it.”
Meyer pursued that interest through the Child and Youth Care program at Lethbridge College, graduating in 2015.
The Fort Macleod position appealed to Meyer.
“I wanted something where I was working one-on-one with kids,” Meyer said. “I liked the opportunity to pretty much design a program entirely from scratch.”
“I knew it would be a challenge, so that was part of what drew me from it, and just working in a small town was appealling as well because you get to know people on a personal basis.”
Meyer was hired through Fort Macleod Kids First Family Centre and Family and Community Support Services.
The two Fort Macleod organizations acquired funding for the position through the Family and Community Safety Program offered by Family Outreach Service and Alberta Health Services.
The community youth worker is in response to the high rate of domestic violence in Fort Macleod, as well as the need for free youth programming.
“Our programming is free, which will help us reach more youth,” Meyer said. “Youth who maybe can’t afford to do sports or 4-H can come for free.”
The position is funded until September, at which time there will be an evaluation to determine if funding will be extended for two to three years.
The stated outcomes of the community youth worker are:
• Community partners have increased opportunities to work with families and youth at risk.
• Increased understanding of risks and protective factors for youth at risk.
• Youth experience an improvement in their wellbeing.
“My job is to connect kids with programs at a school and community level,” Meyer explained.
One of Meyer’s goals is to establish a drop-in night on Mondays for young people aged 12 to 19 years.
“Kids can just come and have a safe place to hang out for a couple of hours, have something to eat,” Meyer said.
A location for the drop-in centre has not yet been determined. Enough space is needed for a couple of tables and chairs, a television set and about 10 young people.
The idea is to provide young people with a safe place just to hang out, and play board games and video games if they desire.
“That’s the idea behind it,” Meyer said. “They have a couple of drop-ins in Lethbridge which are successful.”
Also on tap is a camp titled “Healthy Relationships Plus,” that will explore such topics as relationship and dating violence and healthy relationships.
There will be special girls-only and guys-only events, as well as a sports day.
“Just lots of fun stuff here and there,” Meyer said. “The drop-in, once we get it going, will be consistent.”
Davis Dodge has offered to do a presentation related to automobiles, such as changing tires and oil, and will treat young people to a barbecue.
The Fort Macleod Mustangs senior hockey team has offered to organize street hockey for youths.
Other community groups and businesses are urged to get involved in similar ways.
“Things like that, where the youths can be involved and the community can help.”
Meyer wants young people to feel safe in Fort Macleod, to develop a sense of belonging, and to get involved.
“If you have community support you have more people to go to, more safe places where you can go if you’re in trouble,” Meyer said. “And that the community sees youth as an asset, to see them as an important part of the community.”
Meyer is participating in a couple programs at F.P. Walshe and W.A. Day schools to get to know the community’s young people and build relationships.
“I do have to earn their trust, but I think it helps that I am younger, closer to their age,” Meyer said. “I have an understanding of what they’re going through.”
“I’m not a teacher, I’m not their parent, I’m not the police or anything, I’m just someone who does fun activities,” Meyer said. “It helps to have that neutral person who is not telling them how to live their life.”
Volunteers and supplies will be needed for some of the programs.
Katarina Meyer can be reached at 403-892-2359 or at the FCSS office on Second Avenue.
“I’m really hoping that it’s successful,” Meyer said.

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