The Youth Assessment Centre (YAC) in Lac La Biche celebrated its 40th anniversary on February 8. The centre was filled with former and current employees, supporters from the community, and even former clients who had been placed at YAC when they were young.
“I actually was sent to YAC as a teenager,” says Michelle Basarab, who is now the Regional Director for the centre. “I had a really good sense of how it felt to go to an institution, and I wanted to influence and change some of the things that I thought could be better. I also wanted to support, encourage, and continue to maintain some of the really positive and healthy things I saw and experienced as well.”
YAC is a place where troubled youth between the ages of 12 to 17 can live in a safe environment and learn how to deal with mental health issues, trauma, and loss. There is a psychologist on-call at YAC twice a week to help the young residents learn how to regulate their emotions and deal with their difficult pasts. The children are also given chores every day so that they can learn important life skills like time management and taking care of their environment.
Basarab was placed at YAC when she was 14, and just five years later, she started working there. She went on to get her Masters degree, and now she is able to impact children’s lives by improving the YAC program. During her speech at the 40-year celebration, Basarab had encouraging words — the gist of it was that life can get better — for the youth that currently reside there.
“It’s one moment in your life, whether you expected to be here or not, I just really strongly encourage you to continue to focus on what it is you want to do and where you think you might want to be. This really is an opportunity, though we don't always feel that way, to succeed later on in life,” she said.
Lac La Biche County Mayor Omer Moghrabi also attended the event in support of the centre.
“Keep in mind, now more than ever, we need these types of institutions to help the children,” says Omer Moghrabi. “I think this is such a crucial facility in our community, and I hope it continues for the next 40 years.”