SMILE CAMP SUCCESS STORY!
For many years, ProAction Cops & Kids has been a proud supporter of a Toronto based program known as SMILE camp. Every year over 60 students 12-14 years old, from the Catholic and Toronto school board, spend 3 days at Camp George in Parry Sound. This experience allows students to work with police officers out of uniform in a more personal direct setting. The overall goal of this camp is to develop leadership skills to effect positive change, but it also is an environment for youth to open up about the issues of bullying and racism.
This program has affected the lives of many individuals, one young man in particular named G C. who was not heavily involved in school activities or programs but was encouraged to go to SMILE camp by one of his teachers. Not knowing what to expect, G.C went to SMILE camp, treating it as a way to get out of school for a couple of days. Little did he know, those couple of days in Port Parry would change his life for the better. He was able to open up, for the first time, about his experiences with bullying as a young child being both the victim and the bully. He was able to realize how much he had in common with his fellow students and how their lives had been effected as well. He had a new found respect not only for the officers and adults involved in the program but the general community as well.
After SMILE Camp, G.C was asked by the officers involved with the program to return as a mentor the following year and he jumped at the opportunity. He became heavily involved with other ProAction programs becoming the president of one in particular, Empowered Student Partnership, a program that focused on anti-bullying and giving students a voice. In his last year of high school he even travelled to elementary schools to try and reach out to younger youth about the impact and repercussions of bullying. He was motivated to work hard in school and ended up graduating with honors and receiving a baseball scholarship to a college in the United States.
Now at the age of 21, G.C still looks back at SMILE camp and considers it to be a defining moment in his life. “Without SMILE camp, I do not know what type of person I would be today. It opened my eyes and helped me realize what I truly care about. The memories, friendships and life lessons I learned in those couple of days at SMILE Camp will stay with me for the rest of my life.”