Don't judge a book by its cover

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (May 26/99) - A discussion about teen violence with Yellowknife youth revealed just how much respect they have for a youth drop-in centre based in the Holy Trinity Church.

The Side Door is a safe haven for teens, an unstructured hang out that is drug, alcohol and swear-word free.

"They're awesome, you can't talk about teens without mentioning Kevin and Simon from the Side Door," Matthew Ouillette said.

"They really work hard for us."

Kevin Laframboise is the Youth Drop-In Coordinator at the Side Door. He takes the subject of teen violence very seriously.

"I've spent so much time with these young people and I see kids who want to belong. The big question on the minds of teens is, 'Who am I?'" He said. "So many of them are searching for their identity." Inside the Side Door, there is an understanding among the kids who come to play games, enjoy each others company, or listen to music. They understand that they are in a place where violence isn't tolerated.

"I don't deal with much teen violence at the Side Door, because they respect the space so much. If there is a dispute, it's settled without violence," Laframboise said.

Besides offering a place for youth to hang out, the Side Door is a place where teens can get advice from positive adult role models. It's something Laframboise says is an essential part of the service they provide.

"It's extremely important. A lot of kids don't have a lot of positive adult input in their lives. Many times they're only told what they're doing wrong, instead of what they're doing right," he said.

"They have their own language, their own clothing and styles. Unless you get to know our young people, it's not fair to judge. Teens aren't a problem, they're a misunderstood culture."