Yasmine Gray’s first job experience was rewarding in many ways. Not only did the Grade 11 student earn a decent paycheque while enrolled in the just concluded Youth In Policing Initiative (YIPI) winter after-school program, but she developed useful work experience and some lasting relationships with the officers she worked with at 43 Division.
“That was the best part of the program,” said the Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute student. “They were friendly and accommodating and they cared about my opinion and were willing to use of some of it to engage other young people in the community. I felt valued.”
Prior to joining the YIPI program last January, Gray was a volunteer youth leader with Victim Services Toronto (VST) Tear Ending Abusive Relationships (T.E.A.R.) program. VST has been operating T.E.A.R. independently for the past seven years.
Geared towards young people enrolled in middle and high schools in the Greater Toronto Area, T.E.A.R. combines media clips and music videos to illustrate the devastating effects and unique dynamics of domestic violence.
Gray, who has applied to become a volunteer for VST which provides crisis response, trauma and support services to victims of crime and sudden tragic circumstances 24 hours daily, plans to become a social worker.
She was one of 63 young people between the ages of 15 and 18 who graduated from the 17-week program.
In response to the deadly Danzig Street shooting that claimed two young lives two years ago, the provincial government rolled out a youth action plan with $20 million in new annual funding to improve the lives of young people in the city and the rest of the province. As part of the plan, the summer jobs for youth program in the city’s challenged neighbourhoods was expanded to provide new after-school jobs during the school year.
In a taped message, the province’s Minister of Children & Youth Services, Teresa Piruzza, congratulated the graduates for successfully completing the program.
“Over the past few months, you have taken on important roles that have helped develop your communities and problem-solving skills, you have learned about team work and responsibility and you have built up your confidence along with your resumes,” she said. “You have seen first-hand the importance of role models like the men and women of the Toronto Police Service. Now, all of you will be role models to other young men and women in your communities. I hope you realize you are capable of doing great things.”
Assigned to the 17 police divisions and other units, the students participated in several community projects including “Project Winter Survival”, in which they assembled survival kits for the homeless and an innovative program that teaches youths how to make nutritious meals while introducing them to the possibility of a career in the hospital sector.
They also helped police distribute flyers at community events and search for missing people.
“You stepped up large and you deserve every accolade given to you here tonight,” deputy chief Peter Sloly told the graduates. “You deserve to wear the TPS crest and you have earned our respect.”
The Toronto Police Services Board has supported the YIPI program from its inception, providing financial support through its special fund.
Board member Dr. Dhun Noria, the chief of laboratory medicine at The Scarborough Hospital, represented chair Alok Mukherjee at the graduation ceremony.
“I am confident that each and every one of you will be forever changed by this experience and it will influence you in years to come,” said Dr. Noria.
A total of 413 students applied for this year’s after-school winter program.
The YIPI program was conceived in 2006 with the assistance of former provincial minister Mary Anne Chambers who attended the graduation ceremony.