Durham Regional Police are fostering positive relationships with youth from at-risk communities through a special after-hours program at R.A. Sennett Public School in Whitby.
The program is held Tuesdays and Fridays, free of cost to parents, thanks to a collaboration between the Durham District School Board, the Town of Whitby and Durham Regional Police.
The purpose of the program is to provide students in Grades 5, 6, 7 and 8 a safe and supervised place to spend time between school dismissal and 5 p.m. It incorporates games, activities, special projects, sports and group outings. There are also opportunities for students to participate in workshops that teach life skills such as cooking, resume writing and babysitting. The program even provides bus transportation home for students who reside outside walking distance.
Cst. Dawna Murray, Central West Division’s youth officer, facilitates the R.A. Sennett after-hours program with help from a school board representative and volunteers from Whitby. Since starting the program just over a year ago, Cst. Murray says the improvement in the youths’ attitude towards police officers is “astounding.”
“Prior to the program, the police interaction these kids had was always negative,” says Cst. Murray, adding the program is helping to change that.
“A year ago, I had one girl tell me she hated me because I was a police officer,” says Cst. Murray. “Now she gives me a big hug at the beginning and end of each day.”
Approximately 25 youth participate in the program weekly. Each month they get the opportunity to go on a special outing such as dinner at a sit-down restaurant, a sports game in Toronto and a local seniors’ facility to play games with the members.
After 12 years in policing, Cst. Murray says this program has been by far her most rewarding experience.
“Each of these children has a story, and having the opportunity to put a smile on their faces and watch them learn and grow each week is incredible,” she says. “I love working with youth. It’s where my heart is.”
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Cst. Murray joins the youth in a special outing to play games with seniors (JPG file, 404.7K bytes)
Developing teamwork skills while playing games (JPG file, 291.8K bytes)