We have made new friends and we have a new family.
That was the consensus of the 153 participants in the ninth annual Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI).
Deputy Chief Peter Sloly related the overwhelmingly positive feedback in his remarks at the graduation ceremony on August 22.
“I have given a lot of youth speeches during the course of my 25 years with the Service, and I used to always have a little line in there with the three real successes in life or the three Fs as I called them,” said Sloly. “They are friends, family and faith.
” When it comes to faith, Sloly advised the young people to embrace self-belief. “That is something that’s very important,” he said. “You believed in yourselves that you could apply for a job with Toronto Police. You believed in yourselves that you could go for the multiple hurdles we put in front of you to get that job. You believed in yourselves that, for eight weeks in your summer time when many of your friends are just having fun, you could go through an intensive work experience. You had faith in yourselves and you believed in yourselves that you could work in an environment that many called very hostile, very anti-youth and very anti-diversity and that you could do so successfully.”
During the eight-week program, in which the YIPIs were placed in over 60 job functions, a total of 139 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 Caribbean 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 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.”
MPP Granville Anderson, the newly elected parliamentary assistant to the province’s Children & Youth Services Minister Tracy MacCharles, congratulated the graduates. The Ontario government collaborated with the Service and the Toronto Police Services Board to found 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,” he said. “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.”
This year’s valedictorian was 16-year-old York Memorial Collegiate Institute student Tamara Twumwah-Ofori, who aspires to study social sciences and pursue a career in nursing or social work. She said a guidance counsellor in her school introduced her to the program.
“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.
“I didn’t want just any job,” she said. “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 realise my potential.”
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. Martin Blake, of VSU, was recognized for his work producing the videos.
Blake, along with Constable Mark Gray of 42 Division, who teaches the YIPIs life and leadership skills, and Sarah Ginn were recognized for supporting and enhancing the YIPI program.
A decade ago, Ginn chose to ride in a vehicle, with an unbelted passenger, on the way to her boyfriend’s cottage. The vehicle was involved in a collision on Highway 35 and the force of the impact projected the unbelted passenger behind her, causing her to slam into the dashboard and windshield. Ginn, who has permanent vertigo and is legally blind, speaks to YIPI students annually about traffic safety and the importance of wearing seat belts.
“The people we are honouring here today have invested in making this program what it is,” said program co-ordinator Danielle Dowdy.
Former provincial Minister Mary Anne Chambers who, along with retired Deputy Chief Keith Forde and Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee, played key roles in establishing the program, attended the graduation ceremony. Deputy Chief Mark Saunders, as well as many other officers and civilians who supervised YIPIs over the summer, also attended the closing ceremony. Superintendent Peter Yuen, the unit commander at 55 Division, was the master of ceremonies.