The VPD’s Diversity & Aboriginal Policing Section has been at the forefront of programming for diverse and multicultural populations for years. However, this fall, the Section initiated an educational, awareness and mentorship program called NewKids Vancouver that focuses specifically on new immigrant and refugee youth.
With the financial support from the Vancouver Police Foundation and in partnership with the Vancouver School Board and the Settlement Workers in Schools Program, this VPD initiative supports newcomer youth in developing a sense of identity and belonging in their new home of Vancouver.
Many of the participating youth come from countries where authority figures have been negative, corrupt and feared, and for others it is a new concept entirely. The goal of the program is to help erase the misconceptions about police by teaching these youth that law enforcement is here to help them and to keep them safe. The program focuses on instilling education and awareness around law enforcement through peer and police mentorship, to avert the risk of criminal or gang involvement. Through these experiences, the program is providing newcomer and refugee youth a chance to form positive relationships with the police and instill civic pride and a sense of belonging to Vancouver
The program unites these youth through fun and engaging experiences that promote social justice, healthy lifestyles, and discussed issues of identity, integration and adaptation, bullying and violence prevention. The program runs twice per year, for eight weeks. Close to 20 youth aged 15 – 19 from Vancouver schools meet twice a week to participate alongside other youth like themselves, building positive and trusting relationships with Vancouver Police Members, learning about personal and community safety and crime prevention and the City they now call home.
In just six weeks since the start of the program, the participants have not only opened up to each other and become more comfortable with police members, but they are actively engaged, and sharing personal stories and cultural experiences with VPD members. Many have expressed their interest in pursuing a career in policing and law enforcement down the road. NewKids Vancouver is more than just a program for these youth; it is a life changing experience.