|Over the last nine years, the Victoria Police Department has run the Youth for Change and Inclusion (YCI) program which brings together youth from a variety of ethnic, racial, religious and cultural backgrounds to explore issues of hate and intolerance. Youth aged 13 to 17 attend a four-day conference where they participate in workshops, discussions and group-building exercises designed to provide them with the necessary understanding and tools to combat racism and intolerance. The exercises help break down barriers to communication and teach the youth to accept others. Speakers are brought in from various ethnic groups to give a personal perspective on the effects of racism and intolerance. The youth are tasked with developing action plans to implement upon returning to their schools (for example, launching multiculturalism weeks). Youth representatives from each of the schools form a regional committee to support each other as they implement their initiatives. The committee also organizes a one-day conference at the beginning of the school year called “Motivational Day.”
|The objective of the YCI program is to educate youth on issues of racism, prejudice and stereotyping and show them the impact of their action and inaction. Youth are motivated to become leaders for responsible citizenship. The program instills the desire to act and provides youth with tools to undertake actions that help prevent conflict in their schools and communities.
|The YCI program has had a positive impact on youth, schools, teachers and police. Youth learn the impact of their words and actions, become part of a non-judgmental peer group, work on community projects, become leaders and make significant impacts within their schools. Youth participants have indicated that after participating in the program they are less likely to be involved in crime and more likely to report crime, as they are no longer fearful of the police.
Schools benefit from having a dedicated group of youth who work hard to improve the atmosphere of the school, support other students and prevent problems from developing. Teachers connect with youth and other community members whom they inspire, and in turn are inspired by those involved in this project. Police officers become more aware of the issues surrounding racism and intolerance and are motivated to get involved with the community and with youth.
|The Victoria Police Department covers 60% of program costs and officer time, while Coast Capital Savings and the Victoria School District each cover 20%. Teachers, police officers and volunteers all participate within a camp setting during the four-day conference. The total cost of the program is approximately $15,000 annually (costs fluctuate depending on the number of students participating).
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