West Hill Collegiate Institute Grade 11 student Alex Hacker is a step closer towards achieving his dream of becoming a police officer.
He was among 63 participants in the fourth annual Toronto Police Service Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) fall program who graduated on December 16. The ceremony took place at the Toronto Police College.
Hacker said his affinity for policing was ignited about two years ago.
“That is when I took a liking to seeing police officers in their uniforms and observing some of the things they did,” he said.
Assigned to 43 Division for the past four months, Hacker attended community events with Auxiliary officers and went on a ride along with Traffic Service members.
“This was a great learning experience for me,” he said.
Hacker plans to pursue criminology studies and volunteer as an Auxiliary member before applying to be a uniformed officer.
York Memorial Collegiate Institute Grade 10 student Henry Grabher-Meyer, who migrated from Belize eight years ago, also found the YIPI program very inspiring.
“I learned about it last year through two police officers who were at our school,” he said. “I was a bit hesitant to sign up, but I eventually came around to finding the confidence and courage to do so and I am so glad I did.
“I have cousins who are members in the army and police service in Belize and policing is a career that appealed to me since I was about seven years old.”
Assigned to 14 Division, Grabher-Meyer is an advocate for the program.
“I will definitely recommend that young people make an attempt to be part of it,” he said.
In the feature address at the graduation ceremony, Deputy Chief Peter Sloly thanked the Ministry of Children & Youth Services and the Toronto Police Services Board for their financial support as well as the program co-ordinators, frontline officers, parents and the student participants who make the program possible.
“What you did was a tremendous act of courage,” he told the graduates. “You had to out-compete hundreds of deserving applicants from across the city… You had to earn your pay and the respect of the frontline officers. You had to uphold the legacy of this program and graduate in the numbers that you did,” said Sloly.
“You also had to go back into your communities and answer some tough questions from your family and friends like: ‘Why are you doing this?’ and ‘What’s it like?’ and ‘Are you are selling out?’” he said, of what students may have faced when choosing to work for the police.
“You made it a success for yourself, you made it a success for the entire group and you made it a success for the Toronto Police Service. You have my deep and personal respect. You are now part of our family for as long as you choose to be.”
Paul Wheeler, the Ministry of Children & Youth Services Toronto region regional director, told the graduates they have enhanced their resumes and gained valuable job experiences while new Toronto Police Services Board member Ken Jeffers reminded the graduates that the Service has learned a lot from them.
“Not only do you gain experience to the world of policing, but our Service members have the opportunity to learn from you, to hear from future leaders in our community and to understand your ideas, insights, dreams and hopes,” he added. “It is programs like this that makes our organization excellent as we foster vital relationships and build vital leaders. I am confident that each and every one of you will be changed forever by this experience.
“Remember the lessons you have learned here, both the special skills and abilities that you have been taught as well as the core values of team work, integrity and respect that are a part of all that we do.”
The students spent six hours a week at Divisions across the city and seven hours on Saturdays once a month for training that included presentations from guest speakers and tours to police facilities.
“The YIPI program was very enjoyable and educational,” said Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute Grade 12 student Saffiya Lulat. “One of the things that stood out for me is that we got to see officers for what they are which is human beings, just like us, doing their jobs.”
A total of 183 students have graduated from the YIPI fall program that was launched three years ago. Over 1,400 students have participated in the YIPI summer program where students work full-time with Service members for two months.