When Selina Quibrantar signed on for the just-concluded Youth In Policing Initiative (YIPI) winter program, the last thing she expected to do was cook in a kitchen.
42 Division Constable Mark Gray, who runs an afterschool Pro Action Cops & Kids-sponsored cooking program at Mary Ward Catholic High School and Stephen Leacock Collegiate Institute, took the YIPI students to one of the classes.
“We prepared healthy food and I never thought I would do something like that with police,” said the Francis Liebermann Catholic High School Grade 11 student. “That is one thing I will always remember about my YIPI experience. We also did field trips and got to see, up-close, what police officers did besides walking the beat. They want to see young people succeed and make the community safe. I have no doubt about that based on what I saw.”
Quibrantar, who sang the national anthem at the graduation on April 27 and aspires to be a medical doctor, is quite active in her school. She’s the student council president, developmental asset team leader and cheerleader team captain.
A total of 62 students, from 15-18, graduated from the 17-week program. Earning $11 an hour, the YIPI students are exposed to the Service’s 17 Divisions and 48 support units, working alongside uniform and civilian members.
It was a perfect fit for Ursula Franklin Academy Grade 12 student Teighan Mittal-Mercer, who wants to be a Toronto Police officer.
“I applied because I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to see what policing is all about,” said the teenager, who spoke on behalf of his fellow graduates. “I have always had an infatuation with the law and I know it’s a career in which I will excel.”
A City of Toronto soccer and hockey coach for the last five years, Mittal-Mercer was assigned to 14 Division.
“The whole experience was simply awesome, from cautioning motorists who were speeding in speed-limit zones to teaching underprivileged kids how to play hockey,” he added. “I am so much better off now because of the YIPI program.”
Bloor Collegiate Institute Grade 11 student Christina Zhang, assigned to 51 Division, said the experience was extremely rewarding.
“I live in this community, so it was vital that I was able to work closely with the police to get a better understanding of what they do,” she said.
Constable Melissa Huntley said the students assigned to 51 Division were the hardest-working group they have had at the station since the program started.
“They were really motivated to make a difference and it showed in their work,” the Neighbourhood Officer said.
Sergeant Henry Dyck agreed.
“It was a great placement for these young people and we benefited because of the large amount of time we spend in the community trying to build bridges,” he said. “It was wonderful to have these kids being part of that, and see what it is we are doing to bring groups together. From helping to serve food at the Muslim Welfare Association, to assisting with the creation of emergency care bins for police vehicles at our Division, the students contributed in a big way to public safety while they were with us. We are very proud of them.”
Of the 222 applicants for this year’s program, 130 were interviewed and 63 hired.
“You really went through quite a vetting process,” Acting Deputy Chief Richard Stubbings told the graduates. “This was not a gimme. You earned the right to be here and you should be quite proud of that.”
While reminding them that they contributed to public safety through the many duties they performed, including meeting community members and filing occurrences, the senior officer encouraged the graduates to be ambassadors for the program.
“Go back and talk to your friends about the program and tell them about your experience,” Stubbings noted. “Not every day was probably a great day, but I guarantee you that, if half of your days was as good as 90 per cent of my career, you would have done a good job. Cherish this day for the rest of your life.”
During the program, the students also conducted traffic stops, assisted at community events, did local community surveys and developed resource material for officers who work with young people.
“These are excellent examples of community policing, of engaging with the public and of establishing and fortifying invaluable partnerships,” said Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) member Ken Jeffers.
He added the program was a learning experience for both the graduates and the officers they interacted with.
“Not only do youth gain exposure in the world of policing, but Service members, too, have an opportunity to learn from young people from a rich variety of backgrounds,” he added.
The TPSB has supported the YIPI program from its inception, providing financial support through its special fund.
Etobicoke-Lakeshore Member of Provincial Parliament Peter Milczyn brought greetings from Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Children & Youth Services Tracy MacCharles.
He also assured the graduates that Toronto police officers care about them and have their best interests at heart.
“They work hard to ensure we have the best outcomes for our youth,” he said. “…Through this program, you have gained job experience, learned new skills, enhanced your resume and earned a job reference. But, more importantly, you have increased your confidence and that is something you can show off in the way that you interact with others.
“When I look at resumes that come across my office, I want to see somebody who worked and what type of job they did. But, when they come in for an interview, I want to see that they are confident – not over-confident – that they have achieved certain things.”
Established in 2006, with the assistance of former provincial government minister Mary Anne Chambers, who attended the graduation, 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.
The YIPI program is celebrating its 10thanniversary this year.