Training Young People to Step Up
Centre Jacques-Cartier opened its doors in 1993 in the newly renovated—and recycled—Jacques-Cartier Convent. The centre is open to young people age 16 to 35 and takes an innovative, holistic approach to educational and professional integration. Young people can stay at the centre as they develop new life projects and prepare to implement them. The centre also plays an active role in community life in Saint-Roch.
A former convent for young girls
Back in 1909 the building was brand new and ready to welcome a school for young girls, Notre-Dame-de-Jacques-Cartier, to be run by the Sisters of the Order of Notre-Dame, like many schools of the day in Québec City. But by the 1980s as Saint-Roch’s population went into a freefall, the school was forced to close its doors.
And so the building was in search of a new calling.
A new living environment
The neighbourhood had also grown poorer, so the decision was made to embark on an ambitious project to help troubled youth go back to school and find jobs. The old convent became a place for young people to stay, get training, and take part in community life.
While the building was being renovated in 1992, Centre Jacques-Cartier was set up as a not-for-profit organization. It took possession of the 27 housing units and the workshops and community rooms the following year. The first young people to live there moved in in 1994.
Individual and community projects
Centre Jacques-Cartier was created to encourage young dropouts age 16 to 35 to return to school and find a job. They get help planning their lives while learning new skills and taking part in group activities.
The centre is 80% managed by the young people who attend its activities or live there temporarily. It is an incubator for new projects, all democratically designed, evaluated, and developed by young people, with the support of professional training staff. This helping hand contributes to meeting objectives and ensuring the Centre is a success.
As well as supporting startups and a string of social, arts, and environmental projects, the Centre also holds training workshops. These include workshops on such things as woodworking or circus techniques, the latter organized in partnership with Cirque du Soleil. All these activities seek to hone the skills of young people, boosting their self-esteem and helping them integrate into society, in order to break the spiral of isolation and despondency.
Tam-Tam Café, a restaurant that has occupied the first floor of the building since 1997, grew out of one of the centre’s projects. The café reinvests its profits in youth projects, sources much of what it sells locally, and runs classes on working in the restaurant business.
The café often transforms into a concert or exhibition hall to host the performing or visual arts. Activities at the café are free of charge and add to the neighbourhood’s vibrant cultural scene. It’s a great place to rub shoulders with the Centre’s members and get involved in the its activities.