Police as mentors
Reprinted from "First Responders for Young People" issue of Visions Journal, 2006, 3 (2), p. 26
Team Izzat is a youth-targeted program driven by the volunteer efforts of 22 police officers serving in the Lower Mainland with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Vancouver Police Department. Fifteen university students also volunteer with the team.
The police officers who are members of Team Izzat serve as role models. As mentors, they help guide kids along a positive path based on respect and they reinforce the value of “being on the good side of the law.”
Team Izzat members connect with young people in non-threatening ways. Many of the outreach efforts are focused around sports and other social activities that allow adults to bond with young people.
Team Izzat is about building respect, sending positive messages to impressionable young people, and influencing them in their decision making to help prevent crime and personal tragedy.
History of Team Izzat
Team Izzat was formed in January 2004 by me and members of the RCMP. The team was an informal response to the increase of violence and crime among South Asian youth. The individual RCMP members committed their volunteer time to changing the negative portrayal and stigma associated with South Asian youth and their connection with crime.
Team Izzat targeted elementary schools with high ratios of South Asian students. They reached out to temples, mosques and other community centres. They focused on engaging youth in positive activities, and supporting community projects that pay tribute to youth or enhance youth services.
Who Does Team Izzat Work With?
Team Izzat volunteers aspire to project an intelligent, compassionate, proud-yet-humble image of South Asians. Through their focus on young South Asians, they foster pride in their culture and reinforce positive images.
Encouraged by the success of the program, the Team Izzat volunteers expanded their efforts. Reaching beyond just the South Asian community, volunteers now work with youth from all backgrounds. They counter negative stereotyping, build self-esteem, and involve youth in constructive activities—reinforcing acceptable behaviour and promoting citizenship.
Annual Youth Engagement Work Plan
Mentoring Program: Bi-weekly, drop-in mentoring on site at schools or community centres in the Lower Mainland connects a Team Izzat volunteer with young people to assist with homework, participate in social activities and provide general guidance. This program began at Cambie Community Centre in Richmond this year, in partnership with Richmond Youth Services. It continues every second Thursday, targeting youth ages 12 to 19. Team Izzat plans to expand the program to other cities in the Lower Mainland.
Common Ground Day: This escorted civic tour of places to worship exposed young people to community diversity. In January 2005 Team Izzat facilitated this first tour with 180 grade eight students in Richmond. They hope to make the tour an annual event.
Three-on-Three Youth Basketball Tournament: Team Izzat successfully completed their third annual Three-on-Three Basketball Tournament for boys and girls ages 12 to 16. Twenty-one teams entered this free tournament hosted at McNair Secondary in Richmond on July 8, 2006.
Youth Leadership Awards Dinner: The first event was held in August 2005 to recognize Richmond high school graduates for their leadership and positive achievements at school, home and within the community. Three hundred youth and their parents attended. Ten grads were presented with bursaries of $500 each.
Team Izzat is planning a North American youth forum for university students ages 19 to 35 in May 2007. This forum will deal with global issues selected by the students. Team Izzat hopes to bring some fantastic speakers to this event.