Youth In Policing Initiative (YIPI) students met face-to-face with Ontario’s Premier.
Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School Grade 12 student Raekquan Reece welcomed the opportunity to visit Queen’s Park.
Touring the legislative assembly, where the issues of the day are debated and the province’s laws are made, is one of the highlights for participants in the YIPI summer program that saw 150 teens spend the summer working alongside Toronto Police Service members.
While at Queen’s Park, the high school students also get to meet and interact with some Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP) and the premier.
On August 15, Premier Kathleen Wynne – accompanied by Minister of Children & Youth Services Tracy MacCharles -- took 30 minutes out of their busy schedules to talk to the youths and field questions.
“It’s the first time I have been in the building and that was quite an opportunity,” said Reece, who’s assigned to headquarters over the summer. “I found the Premier to be quite cool and sociable after thinking, at first, that it was going to be overwhelming for us in her presence.”
Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute student Celina Persaud agreed.
“I thought I would have been intimidated, but I felt so at ease in the Premier’s presence,” the Grade 12 student said. “I have been to Queen’s Park before on school trips, but this was the first time that I have been in a room with the premier of the province.”
The YIPI program is a component 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.
“It’s an honour to be able to be part of providing a program like this and one for all of you to have an experience in a summer job,” said Wynne. “It’s exactly what I think government exists to do and that is to give people opportunities. We do that in all sorts of ways. We do that through the education and health care systems, job creation in industry and through opportunity for young people to really get some insight into what a particular working environment would look like and what some kind of career paths might be. I think these are experiences that can perhaps help you decide what it is you want to do going forward.”
This program is very important to us as a government and I hope it has given you a meaningful experience
Last October, Wynne engaged high school students through a live Google Hangout chat. The students asked mainly questions pertaining to jobs while they are in school and after they secure post-secondary education.
When asked if she will do a Google chat again, Wynne assured the students she will continue in her quest to find ways to get input from young people.
“I have said to my staff that I want to do that again.” Wynne said. “I have been to schools and had conversations with students, but I haven’t actually had a Google chat. Sometimes, it takes a while for these things to get set up. We just went through an election campaign and we were into the summer. There were questions about bussing and support for students. All of that is what I call grist for the mill. It all goes into our considerations as we develop policies.”
The premier was also asked how it feels to lead a majority government.
In last June’s provincial elections, Wynne led the Liberals to a fourth straight electoral triumph and a return to majority status in the house for first time in three years.
“The transition from a minority government to a majority has been a very pleasant one,” she told the students, ranging in age from 15-18. “The reason we are happy about that is that we went through an election campaign where there were a lot of odds against us. People didn’t think we were going to win. We ran a good campaign, we did what we set out to do and now we have the permission of the province to implement the plan that we ran on. So, when we had the first vote in the house, we didn’t have to be holding on to the edge of our seats to see if the vote was going to pass and the budget was going to pass.
MacCharles was at police headquarters in late June to welcome this year’s intake.
“This program is very important to us as a government and I hope it has given you a meaningful experience,” she said.
The Pickering-Scarborough East MPP reminded this year’s participants that they were fortunate to be accepted.
Nearly 1,100 young people applied to be part of this year’s summer program.
“With this experience, you will live on as role models in your community,” she added.
A total of 1,271 teens have been part of the initiative since it was launched nine years ago. The program caters to young people facing significant challenges, including finding summer employment.