As part of their eight-week summer employment, Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) students are provided the opportunity to secure first-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training.
Teenager Stephen Adjei-Bediako was one of the successful 147 participants and he was required to use some of the life-saving exercises just days after receiving his certification.
While riding the streetcar to work at the Mounted Branch where he was assigned, he observed an elderly woman sitting in front of him suddenly falling face forward, hitting her head on the seat in front of her. Adjei-Bediako took action and used his training to stabilize the female before emergency services arrived.
“One of the things I learned during my first-aid training was that you should always stay calm and never panic,” said the Father Henry Carr Secondary School Grade 12 student. “I checked to see if she was breathing and then I elevated her head to clear her airways. She started to cough and blink. Had it not been for the training, I would not have known what to do and who knows what might have happened to the lady. I am glad that I was able to play a part in possibly saving a life.”
Chantel Asamoah, more than any of this year’s YIPI graduates, could appreciate what Adjei-Bediako did.
The Sir John A. Macdonald Collegiate Institute Grade 12 student was given up for dead after spending almost 10 minutes underwater at Woodbine Beach in June 2011. She was standing in knee-deep water on the beach when she was swept away by a huge wave.
Sgt. Andria Cowan, then stationed at 55 Division, was the first emergency responder on the scene and she assumed the role of search manager until lifeguards took over and located Asamoah. Officers also provided critical support to Asamoah’s traumatized family.
Asamoah made a full recovery and was reunited with Cowan during the summer at 42 Division, where the officer is now assigned.
“Prior to this year, I never had a summer job,” said Asamoah who aspires to be a medical doctor. “Andria told me to apply to the YIPI program and I was very fortunate to be selected. I am lucky to be still alive and to be employed during the school break. I have so much to be thankful for.”
Adjei-Bediako and Asamoah were among the latest batch of 157 participants to graduate from the program that brought together students between the ages of 14 and 17 from some of the city’s designated priority neighbourhoods who face significant challenges, including finding summer employment.
Minister of Children and Youth Services, Dr. Eric Hoskins, addressed the graduates a day after announcing that the YIPI program will be expanded to provide 270 new after-school jobs in communities across the province, half of which will be in Toronto.
“I hope you found this to be more than a summer job,” he said. “You have taken on responsibilities and you have seen the importance of having positive role models…I hope this experience helps you realize you are capable of doing great things and that each of you has endless potential.”
In 2008, the YIPI program was permanently incorporated into the Ontario government’s list of youth programs and a year later, the Ministry of Children & Youth Services increased its funding to accommodate a 50 per cent increase in hires.
The first year, close to 1,100 youth applied for 100 available spots and this year there were 941 applicants. Of the 907 students who have passed through the program since it was established seven years ago, all with the exception of two, who were fired for being chronically late, have graduated.
The Toronto Police Service Board (TPSB) is an integral part of the YIPI program that also enhances the link between the service and the neighbourhoods it serves.
“I am sure this summer has been a tremendous learning opportunity for you,” said TPSB chair Dr. Alok Mukherjee. “I am confident that each of you will forever be changed by this experience and that it will influence you in the years to come. Remember the lessons that you have learned here…I hope this summer’s experience is only the beginning of what will be an on-going commitment to public service for each one of you.
“Whether you return to work with the Toronto Police Service in the future, as I hope that many of you will do, or partner with us in the community, you will bring to any job or endeavour an approach of professionalism and dedication to duty.”
Adjei-Bediako had already planned to become a police officer before entering the program.
“Now I have contacts and an insight of the work that police officers do,” he said. “I love animals so I was happy that I was posted to the Mounted Unit where I was allowed to ride some of the horses. I enjoyed working with the police and I am looking to become a full-time employee soon.”
Earning $10.90 an hour, the students were exposed to the service’s 17 divisions and 48 support units during the summer.
“The YIPI program has become a very important element of empowering and engaging our young people while getting to know our communities better,” said S/Supt. Kim Greenwood. “You represent what the power of opportunity is all about and you have earned the right to join the YIPI alumni club.”
Westview Centennial Secondary School graduate, Ilyas Wardere, was the proud valedictorian.
“My experience over the last eight weeks has been interesting and unique,” said Wardere, who lives in the Jane & Finch community and was assigned to 23 Division.
“Many of the things I learned over that period will help me in my future endeavours.”
By RON FANFAIR