As the unit commander of York Regional District Police’s second busiest division, the demand for Superintendent Robertson Rouse’s time is challenging.
However, whenever possible, the officer in charge of Markham division finds the time to visit area schools to meet with young people and encourage them to stay there and get a good education.
“As a young boy growing up, that was what my parents told me and it has always stuck with me,” Rouse said after being honoured for community service at the annual awards banquet of the Alliance of Educators for Black Students (AEBS) in Richmond Hill last week. “I have two children of my own and you could say that’s where the inspiration comes from to want to help young people get the best out of themselves.
“Working in law enforcement has given me the opportunity to see first-hand how youth can end up on the wrong side of the law and in some cases be scarred for the rest of their lives. I want to reach them before that happens and be a positive influence on their lives.”
Heeding his parents advice has paid off handsomely for Trinidad & Tobago-born Rouse who, in the summer of 2008, was appointed Superintendent, making him the organization’s highest ranking Black officer.
Prior to becoming a policeman in 1987, Rouse served in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve as a military police officer and with the Canadian Forces in Germany.
The University of Toronto graduate is the chair of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Diversity Committee and the recipient of the Human Rights and Race Relations Centre of Toronto Gold Medal.
The AEBS, comprising a network of York Region District School Board (YRDSB) educators, honour elementary and graduating high school students who are doing well in several fields. Invitations are sent to the board’s 166 elementary and 32 high schools requesting they submit at least two of their top achievers for the annual accolades.
“In some instances, we have schools saying they have more than two Black students who are doing very well and are worthy of recognition,” said the board’s superintendent of education Cecil Roach who presented the award to Rouse. “Unfortunately, the guidelines stipulate that the AEBS can only recognise two students from each school.”
Roach said he fully supports the AEBS efforts to honour Black students.
“The organization’s position is supported by the fact that Black children are underachieving in our schools,” he said. “Our duty is to ensure that those who are falling behind get all the help they need to succeed. The AEBS is there to encourage and support them and also publicly recognize those who are doing well.”
A total of 36 elementary and 54 high school students were presented with plaques for excellence in academics, athletics, the arts and school engagement.
“This is our way of saying well done to our young people,” said AEBS member and elementary school principal Camille Logan who was seconded to York University for the last two years as a course director. “It’s important that we recognize and celebrate success in our community.”
The AEBS also presented Milestone awards to newly promoted vice-principal Arlene Higgins-Wright and former McDonalds All-American basketball all-star Gary Durrant who earlier this year was appointed a YRDSB community liaison officer.