A group of kids took on a trip that changed their outlook on police officers, on life and gave some the opportunity at completing a high school diploma.
“Buckle your helmet straps, gear up with your poly pro, neoprene and river shoes, zip and clip your high-water flotation PFD’s and get a lanyard on those glasses if you want to keep them. We’re body-surfing river left on the Madawaska River. Guys….this week is all about stepping way out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself and overcoming obstacles. If you can do this…you can do anything. We’ve got the best instructors and safety people in the business supporting you this week. If you close your fist and tap the top of your helmet…that indicates that you are O.K. So…..everyone give me the O.K. sign…WELCOME TO BOUNDLESS… let’s go!”
The ProAction Toronto Recreational Outtripping Outreach program (TROOP) partnered with Boundless High School in 2010. Officers connected to TROOP organize youth from TROOP’s community partners to attend this independent high school in Palmer Rapids about 5 hours north of Toronto.
It’s a five-day adventure on the Madawaska River that includes white-water canoeing and rafting and a high ropes challenge course. Boundless provides this opportunity free of charge and grants a .5 High School credit upon successful completion. They then select youth best suited to continue on a fully paid scholarship (valued at $25000) to complete their high school education. Youth that are accepted to the school, will reside on site for the duration of their educational goals. This year, TROOP’s coordinators Constables Vince Langdon and Daniel Ramos organized two separate trips to Boundless involving almost 30 Toronto students.
"This is a first-time experience for most of these kids," said Langdon. "We face all of the challenges of these five-day adventures together. These shared experiences bring us together in a way that could never happen in the city. Before you know it… there’s no Cops and Kids... it’s just Us! TROOP and Boundless have been the highlight of my 31-year career as a police officer.”
In early June, the first group of students were accompanied by Langdon and Ramos along with Constables Jeniffer Sidhu and Cindi Pepper. The trip was facilitated by six outdoor professionals from Boundless. Our team was introduced to the adrenaline inspiring Madawaska River known locally as “the Mad”. We had some thrilling high-rope adventures and then returned to the water for a two-day camping trip, rafting down river to Blueberry Point. The officers and students endured together the early season black flies, mosquitos and high-water conditions. All participants earned half a high school credit for grade 11 outdoor education and five of our participating youth received full scholarship offers from Boundless.
Some feedback from the students:
Youth Participant “J” said: “This is so amazing…you don’t even understand how great this is for me. Schools not going so well for me... there’s too many people bringing me down and getting me in trouble. I’m quitting and going to work to support my mom and sister. I’ve been waiting to do this since we went on TROOP last year. It helps me clear my mind and gives me a chance to reset.”
Youth participant “Little J” said: “This is sick! I love this! I’ve never done any of this crazy stuff. I really just wanna say thank you for allowing me on the Boundless trip I really enjoyed it. I hope for more trips like this. You guys are the best. The water rafting, rope course, group chores, games and the food. It is the best I never expected it. I rate you guys a 101/100. You deserve more than it... My regards to everyone the officers Dan, Cindy and Jen.. Also to the boundless staff Tyler, Jeremy, Calvin, Graham, Mary Mitchell, Dave they are all amazing. I look forward to another trip.”
Youth participant “Y” said: “Usually I don’t like cops…I’ve been involved with the police many times. But…the cops on this trip were pretty chill. I was actually surprised; they actually just talked to me like normal.”