What kind of programs can I run?
The first step in creating a successful ProAction police-youth program is to choose an activity that you personally enjoy. The enthusiasm you demonstrate for the activity will be noticed by the youth, resulting in a positive response from them. ProAction programs range from sports activities, art projects, drama productions, community cleanups, hiking trips to leadership skills training. Be creative when designing your program. This is an opportunity for you to bond with the youth over shared interests and provide them with the chance to participate in something new and exciting. Your effort will be reflected in the final outcome.
Things to think about when designing your program:
What do you want to accomplish? When designing your program, keep in mind what you would like to accomplish. What is the goal you want to achieve? For example:
- Strengthening relationships between police officers and youth
- Building trust
- Promote a positive image of police
- Stimulate personal development
Keeping your objectives at the forefront during the planning process will increase your opportunities for success. The expectation for one day programs is a ratio no greater than 50 youth to one officer and for weekend-long programs is 20 youth to one officer.
Cost effectiveness: There are many activities that can be done inexpensively and with little equipment, such as a hiking trip. A hiking trip requires little cost, while still having many positive elements. Youth spend the day outdoors, visit an area they’ve never been to, and interact with you in a meaningful and non-intimidating environment.
Inclusivity: When designing your program, think about who you would like to see participate. Also think about how your program might present barriers for involvement. For example, a hiking trip is a cost effective activity and it is also inclusive, because no special skills are required to participate. With some sports programs, such as hockey, certain skills may be required in order for youth to participate (i.e. skating). This may limit the number of youth who can participate, as the youth you are targeting may not possess those skills or they may not be sports inclined.
Length of the Program: While community events such as Divisional barbecues and Open Houses increase the visibility of police in the community, these one day events limit the amount of one on one interaction that police have with youth. The most successful ProAction programs are those that build a relationship between police and youth over a significant amount of time and, as such, one day events are limited to a maximum amount of funding.
Storage: If you are running a program that requires a significant amount of equipment, storage may be an issue in between games and practices or in your off-season. Please consider the necessary storage requirements you will need when choosing your activity.
Where can I run my program?
There are many options for locations to run your program, depending on the type of program you create. You can approach schools, churches, and community centres for indoor space. If you have established a partnership with them, they are usually very happy to assist in any way they can and can provide the space that you need.
What elements should I include in my program?
Provision of healthy food: Since your program will focus on at-risk youth, you can be sure that some of the youth in your program may not always have enough to eat everyday. Providing a healthy snack will give them extra energy to participate enthusiastically in your activities and may also act as an incentive for youth to attend your program regularly. It may also encourage healthy eating habits for these youth as they grow older.
Transportation: If you choose an activity that requires travel, be aware that the youth may not be able to afford the cost. ProAction Cops & Kids funding may cover the cost of public transportation in some cases. Public transit is a cost effective method of travel and will help youth to access programs no matter where they live.
Mentorship: Adding a mentorship component to your program is important because many of the youth in your program may need a positive role model in their lives to look up to. Bringing in other officers, professionals, or youth with similar backgrounds who have risen above adversity can add an important and meaningful element of mentorship to your program.
Who can I ask to assist me?
Consider approaching fellow officers, schools, churches and local community centers to assist you in running a successful program. Partnerships are encouraged and are an excellent way to strengthen your program. Your partners can assist you with other resources such as staff, volunteers and donations, which will not only help facilitate the program but it will also enhance the experience for the participants.
How do I identify at-risk youth?
Teachers, community centre employees, group homes and the Children’s Aid Society can assist you in finding youth who may benefit from your program. These individuals and organizations are regularly exposed to youth from a variety of backgrounds and can help get them involved in your program.
Examples of cost-effective and inclusive programs:
Reading Club: Unfortunately, there are many kids who do not excel at or enjoy reading, for reasons such as their reading skills are not at an appropriate level for their age or because their families cannot afford to buy books. Holding a reading club twice a week at a local library would give you the opportunity to help kids with their literacy skills and expose them to a free resource that offers endless possibilities for learning. This program would also allow for meaningful interaction and one-on-one attention between you and the children. Partnering with the library would ensure that the youth are able to sign out books during the program. ProAction funding could cover items such as: snacks, transportation and small awards. A unique prize at the end of the program, such as a bookmark, is a great way to reward the kids for their accomplishments and remind them of the special relationship they made with police officers while discovering their love for reading.
Hiking Trip: This is great opportunity to get youth outside and experiencing nature. Any youth can participate and the cost is minimal. Some youth have never left their neighbourhoods and a trip like this allows youth experience new parts of Ontario. You could also incorporate outdoor survival techniques, plant and berry identification, interactive outdoor games and/or a picnic into the day’s itinerary, enhancing the experience for the youth. ProAction funding could cover the cost of food, transportation, entrance into the parks and supplies.
Homework Club: It is an unfortunate fact that many youth do not have the support they need at home to excel in their studies. Holding an after-school homework club is a way to provide both assistance with homework and exposure to some positive role models in police officers. Once homework help has been completed, other fun learning activities will lengthen the interaction and strengthen the relationship that you are building with the youth. Providing a healthy snack or meal can be an incentive to have kids attend regularly as they may not get enough healthy food to eat at home. ProAction funding could cover the cost of food and supplies for activities.
Arts and Crafts: Youth and police can interact in a meaningful, creative setting through an arts program. Art projects could range from basic paintings to creating sculptures with clay to art projects with cultural significance – this program would be all about using your imagination. Each week you and the youth together could explore a different art activity and learn new techniques, while discovering their unique talents. ProAction funding could cover food, transportation and art supplies.
***ProAction Cops & Kids does not provide funding for programs that take place outside of Ontario.