Youth center in Belcourt promotes healthy lifestyles

BELCOURT Young people in Belcourt and the surrounding area will be running, throwing footballs, kicking soccer balls and hitting balls high into the air at the Byron Dorgan Youth Wellness Center this summer. In the lobby area, they will be learning about healthy lifestyles.

The wellness center, located on BIA Road 7 on the outskirts of Belcourt, boasts an astrofield dome with a 200-meter track and a lobby area where various types of programming such as summer camps and youth activities are held.

“We’ve already held an indoor track meet (this spring),” said Shane Martin, one of the managers at the youth center. “There’s just a gamut of things in there.”

His vision was a place where area kids, particularly Native American kids, could have fun with fitness activities and learn about being good citizens and making healthy choices.

The Belcourt area has had fitness options for adults but not that many for children, said Martin, so the youth center is geared towards the kids.

Former Senator Dorgan attended a dedication ceremony for the youth center earlier this month. Martin said the center has been named in Dorgan’s honor because he was instrumental in changing U.S. Department of Agriculture rules so that the tribe could apply for loans and use it for the wellness center. Through earmarks, about $800,000 was donated to construction of the youth wellness center, with another couple of $100,000 donated privately.

Martin said the wellness center was also completed through a partnership between the Belcourt school district, Turtle Mountain Community College and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

Martin said it has taken years to bring the project to completion. He first approached his then employer, the Turtle Mountain Tribal College, about pursuing funding for the project back in 2006. He and co-manager Lyle Poitra have been heavily involved in the project, from approving land to grant writing to now managing the youth center on a volunteer basis.

“Eight years it took us to get this up,” said Martin.

But, now that it’s completed, the Byron Dorgan Youth Wellness Center looks to be worth those years of effort.