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Youth Force
Training initiative reaches out to Malvern community

Centennial College's Malvern Community Training Initiative -- the community outreach project Toronto Mayor David Miller called the "defining moment" of his first year in office -- has returned this summer to provide more youth with a positive educational experience, useful skills and a new sense of confidence.
Centennial College resident Ann Buller personally congratulated all the Malvern youth who completed their training in a special ceremony last August, while Toronto Mayor David Miller and Continuing Education dean Debby Kaplan look on.

Targeting four neighbourhoods with large numbers of at-risk youth, the mayor's Community Safety Plan combines law enforcement with crime prevention programs provided by community stakeholders. Centennial saw an opportunity to reach out to nearby Malvern in Scarborough to provide tangible benefits to the greater Toronto community and to deepen relationships with other agencies.

Unique challenge

The Malvern neighbourhood, located north of Hwy. 401 and east of Markham Road, represents a unique challenge. According to Statistics Canada, Malvern has the largest number of youth as a percentage of the total population. New Canadians make up 61% of the local population, and four out of five residents are visible minorities. Malvern is considered to be one of the most culturally diverse areas in Canada.

Centennial's training programs involved 70 young people last year, ranging in age from 11 to 29. Many of those 18 and older did not have high school diplomas. Courses were held at the Toronto District School Board's Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute and at Centennial's Progress and Ashtonbee campuses. The TDSB provided free bus transportation to the students while textbooks and lunches were provided free of charge by the college.

Again this year, Centennial is offering six programs in:
  • Afro-Caribbean drumming;
  • automotive clinic;
  • basic air conditioning and refrigeration;
  • intro to audio recording;
  • video production level I; and,
  • standard first-aid and CPR certification.

    Classes began on July 11. This time, all the instruction is taking place at Progress Campus, with the exception of the automotive clinic, which uses the dedicated labs at Ashtonbee Campus.

    For the first time, residents of the Kingston-Galloway neighbourhood in Scarborough are also taking part in the training. To help underwrite the cost of instruction, which is free to participants,

    Centennial has applied for and received a Safer Communities Grant from the Ministry of Safety and Correctional Services.

    The Malvern Mentorship Training Program is another new aspect of the initiative. It involves preparing some of last year's participants to become mentors to the young people entering the program this year. Mentors received 18 hours of formal in-class training and will be paid for their work. They'll also be invited to join the four students from last year already serving on the Toronto Police Services 42 Division Youth Council.

    Facilities available

    Participants are registered as Centennial students and will be entitled to use all the college's services and facilities, including the campus libraries, counselling services, career planning and financial aid. Classes conclude on Aug. 8, with a graduation ceremony scheduled on Aug. 17.

    The 2005 initiative will benefit from a new partner: the Malvern Youth Club. This not-for-profit organization provides activities and support for youth in the Malvern community and will provide another helpful link to the area Centennial serves.

    Last year, the Malvern Community Training Initiative proved to be a success on many levels, earning praise from the mayor, Chief Justice Roy McMurtry, the media and, above all, the participants themselves.

    Last August, Valedictorian Alan Quincy Jones told the graduation ceremony guests he wanted to thank Centennial "for opening our eyes to a higher learning environment."

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