Earning a salary over the summer appealed to Tamara Twumwah-Ofori. As a participant in this year’s Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) program, the 16-year-old York Memorial Collegiate Institute student got more than she bargained for.
She graduated with a better understanding of how Toronto Police operates and the myriad functions the Service performs in addition to being selected the class valedictorian.
“I didn’t necessarily want to become a police officer, but I did want to find out more about what the Service does,” said Twumwah-Ofori, who was assigned to the Occupational Health & Safety Unit at headquarters. “I wanted to know if there was more to the familiar street cop that we usually see on our roads. Well, now I know that there is and that’s because of this program.”
For many of the students, including Twumwah-Ofori, this was their first summer job. They earned $11 an hour.
“I didn’t want just any job,” said the teenager, who aspires to study social sciences and pursue a career in nursing or social work. “I wanted something that would be fun and interesting and I got that. This program has helped me grow as a person. This was more than just a summer job. It has opened so many doors for future jobs and helped me realize my potential.”
During the eight-week program in which the YIPIs were placed in over 60 job functions, 139 of them received first-aid certification, 113 attended Rookie Ball, which is a joint initiative between the Service, Toronto Community Housing and the Toronto Blue Jays; 145 attended a youth forum hosted by Durham Regional Police, 91 participated in this year’s Toronto Carnival, while others cleaned graffiti in neighbourhood parks and engaged in other community endeavours in addition to their jobs at headquarters and other units and divisions.
“This program is a celebration of the great potential of our young people and their neighbourhoods, no matter where those might happen to be in this great city,” said deputy chief Peter Sloly. “We have made a small investment in a small number of young people. When you take that investment and go back to your families and neighbourhoods and do for them what we have done for you, the radiating effect of that will make a difference in a small way every day.”
Granville Anderson, the newly-elected parliamentary assistant to the province’s Children & Youth Services Minister, Tracy MacCharles, congratulated the graduates.
The Ontario government collaborates with the Service and the Toronto Police Services Board to present the successful program that provides youth with an opportunity to develop job skills while enhancing police and community relations.
“You should be proud of yourselves,” said Anderson. “Programs like this are the government’s way of helping youth like you make connections and get a summer job. We want you to choose the best path in life and be successful. These jobs teach you how to take on responsibility, ways to contribute to your community and the importance of being role models. Keep the momentum going and you can achieve any goal you set for yourselves.”
Each year, a group of YIPIs work with Toronto Police Video Services unit to produce public service messaging. The focus this year was on Internet safety.
Established with the assistance of former provincial minister Mary Anne Chambers who attended the graduation, 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.