Ricardo Araujo didn’t know what to expect when he entered the Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) summer program in 2010.
“I was in Grade 10 and I had never worked before,” he said. “This was the first time I was exposed to a work environment and I was a bit apprehensive.”
Established in 2006, with the assistance of former provincial government minister Mary Anne Chambers, the innovative program caters to high school and university students, between 15 and 18, who come from City of Toronto-designated Neighbourhood Improvement Areas who often struggle to find summer employment.
Earning $11 an hour, the YIPI students are exposed to the Service’s 17 Divisions and 48 support units, working alongside both uniform and civilian members.
The YIPI program is celebrating its 10thanniversary this year.
Since the inception, almost 1,800 young people have passed through the summer and winter program. Of that that total, less than one per cent failed to complete the seven-week initiative.
Araujo, who was assigned to the Forensic Services Unit, admits it was the best summer of his life.
“It was a big learning experience for me and the program opened my eyes to the world of policing,” he said. “It also assisted with my professional development. I really grew as a person during the summer I was employed by the Toronto Police Service.”
After graduating from high school, Araujo joined the program as a junior assistant before transitioning to a program assistant.
“I now feel as if I am part of the Toronto Police family and that all came about because of my involvement as a YIPI,” he added.
Eight years ago, 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 accommodate a 50 per cent increase in hires.
As a Community Engagement Officer at 43 Division, Constable Randy Arsenault has experienced the benefits of working with YIPIs.
“When I go to youth events with them, the YIPIs help me to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between young people in the community and police,” he said. “They understand the youth culture and see things I don’t, so they are able to communicate with their peers in a way that I might not be able to. That’s one of the biggest values they have brought to our organization.”
Thushanth Selvakumar, who was in the inaugural 2006 summer class, was the first YIPI graduate to be hired as a uniformed officer last year.
YIPI Coordinator Danielle Dowdy said the program has flourished over the past 10 years.
“Reaching 10 years is huge milestone for the program, Service and the community,” said Dowdy.
To mark the landmark achievement, a video is being prepared to showcase the alumni and the benefits they accrued from the program, as well as an alumni dinner.
The interest from students wishing to enter this year’s summer program has, again, been overwhelming.
Approximately 1,200 students have submitted applications for 150 spots.
“We are in the process of sorting through the applications,” said Dowdy. “Like in previous years, it’s going to be difficult selecting just 150 students, because the quality of the applicants we get is really of the highest standard.”
Interviews will be conducted in March for this summer’s program, that starts on July 4.