Grade 12 student Ana Maria Iorga aspires to be a fashion designer.
While surfing on Facebook, she stumbled upon a Toronto Fashion Academy (TFA) advertisement for a free one-month summer youth fashion initiative.
“I follow fashion feeds and, when I saw that, I thought it would be a great opportunity because I have a passion for fashion,” she said.
Iorga was among 20 youth between 11 and 17 who participated in the program partially funded by Pro Action Cops & Kids – the largest private funder of Toronto Police Service programs for young people.
The graduation ceremony took place on August 28.
“It was a great experience,” Iorga added. “It helped me build my portfolio and it diversified my views on fashion. It also helped opened my eyes to the retail industry.”
Sergeant Tiffany Castell, of 51 Division, partnered with the TFA to offer the creative program.
“This is a youth project that’s super unique because most of the Pro Action-sponsored events have to do with sports and cooking,” she said. “Most kids are not getting exposure to express their creativity, so this is an opportunity for them to get some formalized training.”
TFA chief executive officer Jason Cameron jumped at the opportunity to help young people gain confidence, build a professional network and portfolio, secure access to industry professionals, become career-focused and feel a sense of purpose and motivation.
“Julie Goodfellow is one of our board members and a teacher with the Toronto District School Board,” he said. “One of her students was murdered and another one overdosed. That hit home for me and I decided that we at the academy had to do something and provide opportunities for youth who are facing peer pressure and other challenges in life. When we were introduced to Tiffany, through one of our members, we started knocking heads to see what will work and this is what we came up with.”
The young people attended four six-hour workshops on Sunday afternoons last month.
They engaged in photography, modelling and designing workshops and did a fashion shoot at Toyota on Front car dealership.
Provo, a Grade Eight student at Lord Dufferin Junior & Senior Public School, found out about the program while at the Youth Day creative arts festival at Dundas Square, last July, where the TFA had a booth advertising the event.
“I learned there are so many aspects to fashion,” the Dixon Hall dance group member said. “What I enjoyed the most, however, was making candy shirts. Me and my partner (Scarlett McArthur) used lollipop sticks and wrappers. That was a fun activity.”
Stephanie Wiafe, the mother of Provo, said her daughter benefited from the creative exposure.
“She discovered things other than dance, which she loves,” said Wiafe. “The fashion workshop will help with her colour coordination.”
Siblings Jana and Anas Azbarga, who migrated from Israel a few months ago, were among the graduates.
“I enjoyed working with different groups of people and being around the police who are very cool,” said 15-year-old Jana Azbarga. “The experience was so awesome and I felt like a professional.”
McArthur, 11, said the workshops were fulfilling.
“I learned a little bit more about fashion styling,” she said. “That was cool because I like designing clothes and I want to be a fashion designer.”
Several officers assisted Castell during the program. They included 51 Division Constables Kimberly Kelly, Crispin Barnes, Amy Beckles and Paul Walker and 22 Division Detective Kathlin Seremetkovski.