Participating in this summer’s Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) program was one of the best experiences for valedictorian Tabassum Yousuf.
“I learned so much from all the presentations and I even got to know myself a little bit more,” she said at the August 27 graduation. “My world is so much bigger with all the new things I have learned about. I also made a lot of new friends. I had the best time of my life in the program and I am so sad it has come to an end. I am so grateful for the opportunity and I know I will be much better after it.”
Yousuf was among 72 students who graduated from this year’s eight-week program held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Completing Grade 12 at West Hill Collegiate Institute, she learned about the program a year after migrating from Bangladesh in 2019.
“When my school social worker told me about this unique program where I could work with the police and learn from them while getting paid, I was very excited,” she said. “After the program was cancelled last year because of the pandemic, I thought I had lost out on the opportunity. When I got an email this year with the application form, I filled it out not thinking I would be lucky to get in. I was so happy when I learned I was in.”
Yousuf will pursue Grade 13 studies at a Toronto District School Board alternative school before pursuing Nursing Studies.
“This program just didn’t feel like work,” she added. “It was a magical experience and I am a much wiser and confident person because of it.”
The other valedictorians were Shuaib Mohamed and Mallori Arizala who both aspire to be police officers.
Graduating from high school with a 90 per cent average and enrolled at the University of Guelph, Arizala was a Toronto Police co-op student in 2019-2020.
She was assigned to Corporate Communications where she helped publish to TPS social media accounts.
“I quickly realized if I wanted to be in law enforcement, I had to start filling out my resume and network,” said Arizala. “I wanted to do YIPI, be an Auxiliary member and do a stint in the Canadian Armed Forces before applying to become a police officer with either Toronto, the Ontario Provincial Police or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”
Being among the first cohort to do the program virtually is an experience that Arizala will cherish.
“The experience and information gained is invaluable,” she said. “With the various training I received such as professional email writing, how to properly use social media and preparing ourselves for the work environment, I know I am not leaving the way I came. I am so happy I was able to be part of this journey.”
Mohamed is pursuing a Bachelor of Business degree at Ryerson University and enrolling this fall in the Army Reserves.
“When I Iearned the program was virtual, I was skeptical,” he said.
That feeling was short-lived.
“This program allowed us to learn so many new things, make new friends and work on our skills,” Mohamed said. “It also gave us an insight and better understanding of the policing world, the human side of the badge. It set us up for success.”
Chief James Ramer congratulated the students for completing the program and choosing Toronto Police as their summer employer.
He said the Service has benefited from their insights and contributions.
“Your successful completion of this program demonstrates your commitment to hard work and reaching your goals,” noted Ramer, who also acknowledged the parents for allowing their children to work with Toronto Police.
“This is a big achievement under any circumstance, but do to so virtually during a public health crisis is an even bigger accomplishment. We admire your resilience in the face of these obstacles and your belief that you can transform your communities and your city for the better. We believe this too. It has been our pleasure to build relationships with our future leaders while opening your eyes to the complex and exciting world of policing.”
Highly supportive of the program, the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) has demonstrated its commitment by the financial contribution it makes through its Special Fund.
“I hope that this has been a tremendous learning opportunity for you,” Chair Jim Hart told the participants. “I am confident that each one of you will be forever changed by this experience and that it will influence you in the years to come. Remember the lessons that you have learned here, both the special skills and abilities that you have been taught as well as the key principles and values like teamwork, integrity, community focus and respect that are a part of what we can do.”
Mayor John Tory, who is a member of the TPSB, also attended the graduation ceremony.
“You had an opportunity learn more about your community which is the city in which you live and some of the challenges people face in their lives that often cause them to come into conflict with the law and perhaps most importantly to help us in building trust,” he added. “After this summer, I think you understand better that trust among government, the police and people is fundamental to us building a successful city.”
Assistant Deputy Minister David Mitchell thanked the participants for staying the course and graduating.
“You were selected for your individual skills and abilities and throughout the summer, you have shown a real commitment to your community,” he pointed out. “You have earned a unique perspective in terms of the complexity and variety of police work and I hope it has strengthened your appreciation for the police service.”
In its 15th year, the annual summer program – established with the assistance of former provincial government Minister Mary Anne Chambers who attended the graduation -- 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.
They were assigned to the Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit (CPEU) where they have gained valuable job experiences. Training and life skills through their virtual interaction with police officers and community members.
For the first time ever, YIPI students were exposed this summer to post-secondary information sessions.
Also, Acting Inspector Brian Urkosky and Chambers conducted leadership training that will now be provided annually to participants.
To learn on how to join the next Youth In Policing Initiative session, visit tps.on.ca/yipi