As part of OJEN’s ongoing commitment to providing youth with meaningful paid employment experiences, young people are playing an important role in supporting OJEN’s Youth-Police Dialogues (YPD) program in communities throughout Ontario. One or two young people are recruited in each community where the program is delivered and become members of OJEN’s YPD Youth Leadership Team. Their experience in the community and commitment to making a difference for youth the area, make them a valuable asset to the program. These youth are hired to assist in the planning, implementation, facilitation and evaluation of the YPD program in their community, contributing anywhere between 25 to 100 hours depending on the individual project.
On Saturday, March 9th and Sunday, March 10th OJEN staff welcomed the YPD Youth Leadership Team to Toronto for a two day training session. Nine youth from throughout Ontario – Sudbury, York Region, Kitchener, Ottawa, Windsor, and Toronto – met with OJEN staff for lively and informative sessions that provided an overview of the YPD program, explained the role of the Youth Leadership Team and offered tips on successful facilitation techniques.
The youth ranged in age from 17 to 26. For some, the Project Officer position was their first paid job. Two of the youth were visiting Toronto for the first time. One was a minor, who required a parent to accompany her. Each brought immense enthusiasm and a strong interest in improving youth-police relations in their communities.
After a full day of vigorous training, Saturday night was reserved for fun. Everyone enjoyed shopping at the Eaton Centre and skating at Nathan Philips Square.
The training session wrapped up Sunday afternoon with the Youth Leadership Team returning to their homes throughout the province. As one of the Youth Leadership Team remarked, “It was nice to meet other young people from all over Ontario because even though our communities have their differences, we all have the same shared interest in helping youth in our communities.”
The Youth Police Dialogues Program
A three year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation in 2018, has allowed OJEN to expand this high-impact program to communities throughout Ontario where tensions between police and youth populations exist. Successfully piloted in several locations since it was first launched in Toronto in 2014, the program is tailored to the needs of the youth in each community. Working with local community partners, OJEN draws on its network of justice sector volunteers to assist in program delivery. YPD Youth Leadership Team members act as a local point of contact for community partners and volunteers. Over the three years that the Ontario Trillium grant covers, the YPD program will be delivered in 24 locations throughout Ontario.