High school student Clarence Sarion wanted to give back to his community and learn more about policing.
As one of the 153 graduates of the Toronto Police Youth In Policing Initiative program, he found a summer job that dispelled myths about policing as well as a group of like-minded young people.
“Never have I met a more enthusiastic, diverse and social group of students,” said Sarion, one of four valedictorians from the 2018 class who worked at the South Detention Centre. “I wanted to thank the Toronto Police for giving youth the opportunity to understand the organization.”
It’s the 12th summer for the provincially funded program that has now expanded year-round and seen 2,000 students from the city’s priority neighbourhoods work for the Toronto Police Service.
Of 900 applicants, the 153 students were chosen to work alongside members of the Service in almost every unit including frontline units like Marine, Courts and Divisions and administrative units such as Records Management and Property & Video Evidence Management.
The students also took tours of the units, spent time at conferences with Durham and Peel YIPI students, and participated in community programs, such as Rookie Ball, a Toronto Blue Jays program that gives youth a chance to try baseball.
Alyssa Geraci, who worked at Parking Enforcement East, said it felt great to work in the community, especially at Rookie Ball.
“The simple task of interacting and playing with the kids was very rewarding,” she said, noting her interest in pursuing a career involving forensics. “This opportunity has allowed me to gain so much knowledge and understanding about the profession. This has increased my respect for the Toronto Police Service.”
She appreciated the chance to get paid while learning and creating new friendships.
“After we leave here today, no matter what profession we choose, remember that success comes from being dedicated to working hard to achieve our goals, following our dreams and never giving up on ourselves.”
Chief Mark Saunders said the YIPI grads have developed relationships that will last a long time amongst themselves but also with members of the Service.
“We’ve seen the impact that the YIPI program had in their lives, I’m so proud of the work that the program has done,” the Chief said. “We walk away feeling so much value because of you as well..… remember you’re always part of the Toronto Police Service family.”
He thanked the parents, many in the audience, who raised the YIPI students to understand the value of service as well as former government Minister Mary-Anne Chambers, also in the audience, for fighting to start the program.
“She was told this was not supposed to work. This was supposed to be a failure. You have to understand the nuances to get it right and she did,” Saunders said.
Mayor John Tory said he hopes students have learned about their police service, their community and themselves.
Mayor Tory said the greatness of the city relies on its diversity – a fact seen on the faces of citizens each day, but also its inclusivity – our goal as a society.
“To make sure every single person, no matter the colour of their skin, where they came from, the language that they speak, the faith they have, the sexual orientation that they have, that every single person has the opportunity to be whatever they want to be and be a leader,” Tory said. “I hope you understand, with hard work and some help along the way, because everyone needs a mentor, you will get to be whatever you want to be and be a leader.”
The YIPI program has now spread to 30 police services throughout the province.
Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services Assistant Deputy Minister David Mitchell says the province has funded the program for 12 years because of the diverse job experience and opportunity it provides youth.
“Graduates, I hope you enjoyed this opportunity, value this moment and all the well-deserved attention. I also hope this experience helps each of you realize you are all capable individuals and have endless potential.”
Toronto Police Services Board Chair Andy Pringle said the opportunity to learn is mutual.
“Our Service members get to learn from our future leaders,” Pringle said. “Effective engagement with community is a critical aspect of policing.”
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