Shane Lokenarine had never painted before this summer.
There was a bit of apprehension when he and three other Youth in Police Initiative (YIPI) students, assigned to 32 Division, learned they were going to be painting over graffiti in the Division after not having tried to paint before.
“It’s another skill set I have in my tool box and I am so grateful for the opportunity,” said the Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute student who enters Grade 12 next month.
This is Lokenarine’s first summer job.
“If I wasn’t employed, I would be home playing video games or just outdoors being involved in a sports-related activity,” he said. “To work with Toronto Police for the last few weeks has been such an amazing opportunity. I have met wonderful people and got a chance to do things to clean up my city. I don’t think there is anything more else I could have wished for the summer.”
Keira Mitchell’s versatility has been on display during the summer internship program.
She sang the national anthem to kick-off the the 11th annual summer program that caters to high school and university students, between 15 and 18, who come from City of Toronto-designated Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and often struggle to find summer employment.
Mitchell also showed off her proficiency with a paint brush.
“I have done some painting at home, so this is nothing new and I don’t mind getting my hands dirty,” she said. “I am so sad my time with Toronto Police is coming to an end because I have enjoyed everything we did.”
Over the past few weeks, the students have painted over graffiti in underground parking lots and neighbourhood garages.
“This is a big problem for us in this Division,” said Constable Cindi Pepper, a School Resource Officer.
“There are many private laneways where there are no driveways to houses,” she said, of trying to beautify the area and improve quality of life for residents. “They have garages behind them and laneway access and individuals just go along and spray those private garages.”
In her 16th year with the Service, Pepper said she enjoyed working with the YIPI students.
“They come here, every day, ready to do whatever task they are assigned,” she said. “They are eager and willing to learn new things and express their creativity.”
Aram Nersisian, who graduated from Northview Heights Secondary School and is off to Seneca College to pursue paralegal studies, is grateful for the opportunity.
“This is not my first summer job, but it has been my best one so far,” he said. “I just can’t wait for mornings to come so I could get up and report for duty. This is my first time cleaning up graffiti and I love it because our city has a reputation as being clean and I want to help preserve that.”
Francis Libermann Catholic High School graduate Brenden McDonald also relishes the opportunity.
“What better way to make a contribution to the city you live in than by going out there and helping to clean it up?” he said. “This has just being a fantastic summer working in a friendly environment with great people.”
Enrolled in Centennial College’s Police Foundations program, McDonald aspires to be a Toronto Police officer.