Argos Stop the Violence

Transcript

Narrator:

The Stop the Violence program involves Toronto Argonaut players who volunteer to work one-on-one with youth at the Sprucedale Youth Centre. During the pilot program, players spent two hours twice a week with these offenders, giving the youth the opportunity to develop trust and positive relationships. In the second program phase, players continued to mentor youth as they re-entered the community.

Cst. Andria Cowan:

Toronto Police Service: It's extremely unique; it's the only one of its kind. We have Argonaut players from the Canadian Football League engage young males that are in custody.

Originally, we trained the players with a psychologist that had a background with youth and adolescents. We supported that training with the staff from the detention center. And they explained a lot of the challenges that the participants face while in custody.

We have incorporated and worked very closely with the Ministry of Youth and Children's Services to develop a program that would get through some barriers right off the bat. Players would play basketball or touch football or work out with the participants in the program. We would slowly roll that into more of like a group discussion type of program. It's an unlikely partnership, but it has proven to be incredibly effective.

Jordan Younger:

Youth Mentor: I think it's important that we don't leave anybody behind. Even what we deem as maybe the worst of a society. I think it's important that we don't give up on them. They're a reflection of us. They're a reflection of who we are.

Cst. Andria Cowan:

Toronto Police Service: The offenders really felt special that someone like a professional athlete would invest their time in them and would care about them.

What we learned though the program was that one session with the players was like 100 sessions with a therapist.

The participants of our program that have been released back into the community, the rate of re-offence for those participants has dropped from approximately 85% down to 25% to 35% and we consider that a real success.

We encountered some difficulty, sort of navigating our way though the government world. I found navigating through Youth Justice was extremely easy and supportive to connecting with the right people. Once we did all the government relations we were really good to go.

Partnerships are critical because they bring credibility to the program. In our situation, we are not a social services agency and, therefore, we don't have any staff or infrastructure that supports a social service program and we 100% relied on the expertise of the partnerships that we had. What has been a real challenge has been making this program sustainable.

Some advice to start up is definitely to have as many conversations as you can to morph your program into being the most effective program that it can be. Be creative, think way outside the box.

Jordan Younger:

Youth Mentor: I think the biggest thing is to do your homework, understand what you are dealing with, understand that it won't happen overnight. That it takes an incredible amount of patience. You've got to be willing to give your time; you've got to be there. You've got to build the trust up. A lot of them are hard nuts to crack. A lot of the kids have been in situations where people have lied to them their whole lives. Honesty goes a long way.

Cst. Andria Cowan:

Toronto Police Service: It's wonderful to hear a young person say they now have hope. They now have some inspiration, they now have a reason to make change and contribute to their community in a positive way.

On-screen Text:

The Stop the Violence Youth Mentorship pilot project received funding through the Youth Justice Fund Main Component.

©Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada, represented by Justice Canada, 2011.

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