In just eight weeks, Babatope Ajayi graduated from a kid to an adult.
The University of Toronto mechanical engineering student credits his Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) summer participation two years ago for the swift transition.
“It was my first job and I was given the opportunity to function in the corporate world,” he said. “My experience was beyond amazing as I got to work alongside some truly inspirational officers who put their lives on the line day in and out. Prior to being in YIPI, I too had preconceived notions about law enforcement. However, my time here provided me with first-hand knowledge as to how officers really do serve and protect the community. My YIPI experience was one where I started my transition into the adult world. I made lifelong friends and carry wonderful memories.”
Impressed with his job performance that summer and his willingness to be a program volunteer after graduating, Ajayi was chosen to address the incoming YIPI class last week.
“Just two years ago, I was in the same position as these students and now here I am being asked to be the keynote speaker,” he said. “That’s quite an achievement for me to be proud of.”
The recruits represent the ninth batch of high school students between the ages of 15 and 18 to be exposed to the program that caters to young people facing significant challenges, including finding summer employment.
Malvern resident, DeSean Garrett, is eagerly looking forward to his first summer job.
“My mom suggested the YIPI program would be a good start to get some work experience,” said the Senator O’Connor Collegiate Grade 11 student. “If I was not doing this, I would be volunteering at summer camps with my church. I have however had positive interactions with the police at my school and I want to learn more about what they do.”
A total of 1,271 youths have been part of the initiative since it was launched nine years ago.
“This program works because members of the police service greet and welcome the participants to start the journey of helping them here all the way through their employment,” said Deputy Chief Peter Sloly. “Some of you will be involved in preventing crimes and in some cases actually solving crimes by canvassing neighbourhoods. A lot of you will be contributing to safety in the city as well as contributing to your own lives moving forward with a great resume, great skills and a great network of professionals within the police service.”
Sloly reminded the students that they are now part of the police family.
“Wear that crest and shirt with pride,” he told the eager youths. “If you open your heart to us, you will be successful. We will learn from you and you will be better for it.”
Close to 1,100 young people applied to be part of this year’s YIPI program.
“This tremendous response shows the huge need for a program like this,” Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee said. “For those of you who were selected, you should be very proud to be part of this wonderful initiative. We believe that this program has countless benefits for the young people, the Toronto Police Service and our city. It also helps creates future leaders in neighbourhoods across Toronto and gives our officers the unique opportunity to interact with young people and learn first-hand about their lives, realities, hopes and aspirations.”
Established with the assistance of former provincial minister Mary Anne Chambers who attended the launch, the YIPI program is part of the province’s Youth Opportunities Strategy conceived to help young people facing barriers achieve success.
In 2008, the program was permanently incorporated into the Ontario government’s list of youth programs and a year later, the Ministry of Children & Youth Services expanded its funding to the program to accommodate a 50 per cent increase in hires.
Tracy MacCharles, who was recently sworn in as the Minister of Children & Youth Services, urged the participants to make full use of the opportunities that the program provides.
“We want young people like all of you to see the opportunities that are ahead of you,” she said. “We want you to realise your full potential and become active members of your community. You will have opportunities this summer to gain skills, meet new people, learn about police work, earn a job reference and boost your confidence and your resume.”
Earning $11.00 an hour, the students will be exposed to the service’s 17 divisions and other support units in the next seven weeks.
By RON FANFAIR