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Ben Bonga, interim director of AmeriCorps in Red Lake, greets Youth Build members from around Minnesota and Youth Works, a nondenominational volunteer church group from Burlington, Colo., during a joint renovation project at the future Red Lake Senior Center. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

YouthBuild/AmeriCorps: Old Red Lake Casino to become Senior Center

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RED LAKE -- YouthBuild members from Red Lake, Virginia, Minn., Bi-county Communication Action Program, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and YouthWorks volunteers from Burlington, Colo., are making a transformation in downtown Red Lake.

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By late summer, the north end of the Red Lake Humanities Center, which formerly housed the Seven Clans Casino, will become the Red Lake Senior Center and Nutrition Site.

The conversion of the facility is led by YouthBuild/AmeriCorps in Red Lake with help from YouthBuild teams around northern Minnesota.

"Seven Clans kind of pulled out all the stops making it easy for conversion," said Garnet Mountain, director of AmeriCorps/YouthBuild at Red Lake. "(Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr.) wanted it to be for the seniors, but he also wanted it to be a training project for the young people of Red Lake."

YouthBuild in Red Lake currently serves 29 members.

"It's a high school completion program and preparation for employment and support in college," Mountain said.

YouthBuild members can enroll in college-level classes in conjunction with Red Lake Nation College and earn credits at Northwest Technical College. By completing 450 hours of school in the program, they also earn scholarships for higher education.

Bryan Lussier, director of Tribal Employment Rights Office at Red Lake, said the YouthBuild members might not all go into construction, but the skills they learn in the program, as well as employability skills, serve them in future endeavors.

Ben Bonga, AmeriCorps interim director at Red Lake, greeted the visitors in Ojibwe. He said the YouthBuild members also learn of their traditions along with job training.

The new Red Lake Senior Center will feature a dining room and commercial kitchen on the ground floor and offices and storage on the second story. The casino in Red Lake was replaced in 2010 by a new Seven Clans Casino and Convention Center on the south border of the reservation on State Highway 89.

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