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Youth Collective to unveil winter program at Wednesday open house
Caroline Polgrabia, left, and Wendy Higgins at the NOTL Youth Collective back in October. Evan Loree/File

The hardworking volunteers at the NOTL Youth Collective are gearing up to launch their winter program. 

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, residents can attend the collective’s information and registration night from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Cornerstone Community Church Town Campus, 1570 Niagara Stone Rd.

People will have the opportunity to drop in and learn about the 2023 winter program and what will be offered to youth. 

“There’s been extensive work over the last six months to vet our volunteers in partnership with the Cornerstone Church because we are a community partner with them,” said Caroline Polgrabia, chair of the NOTL Youth Collective planning committee.

At the information session, Polgrabia will unveil details of the winter program that begins on Jan. 16 and how the community can get involved. 

There will also be information available for anyone wanting to volunteer, a Q&A session and an opportunity for youth from Grade 7 to 12 to register for the winter sessions.

Registration is necessary because no one can participate in the program without signing a risk waiver form, code of conduct and emergency forms. 

A facility tour will also be available. 

“Anybody’s invited. It’s not just families and kids. It’s anybody in the community who’s interested,” Polgrabia said.

The following week on Jan. 16 will mark the NOTL Youth Collective’s soft launch of its winter after-school program from 3 to 6 p.m. 

The program runs until March 10. More details will be announced during the information session. 

However, Polgrabia told The Lake Report a bit about what youth can expect throughout the eight weeks. 

“We are looking at possibly offering some certification programs for the kids. And we have a community partner that is going to be supporting that so we’re hoping to be able to offer those free of charge,” she said. 

She hopes to run more movie nights and even resume workshops for teens who are heading into the workforce this summer. 

Polgrabia and the volunteers have been working non-stop to prepare for the launch, and parents can be rest assured that each volunteer has had to go through intensive training.

The application process included community reference checks and in-person interviews.

After that process, applicants go to the Ontario Provincial Police for a vulnerable sector check. 

Then, volunteers have to complete a two-hour youth supervision Plan to Protect training session.

“It’s really quite daunting. One of the church staff does the program. It’s very eye-opening,” Polgrabia said. 

The training teaches volunteers about all the worst-case scenarios so they’re prepared for anything, she said. 

 After one final review from the Youth Collective, the application gets sent to Cornerstone staff. Since it’s on the church’s property and under its insurance, the church has final approval.

The collective changed its name because Cornerstone is commonly known as the “Town Campus” and Polgrabia wanted to avoid any confusion between the program’s name and the church’s name. 

So the group is now the NOTL Youth Collective and the campus refers to the church location. 

“Collective is about the program. So, it’s a group of people and the community collectively developing programs for the youth at the campus,” said Polgrabia.


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