We recently had the opportunity to get to know Travis – a grade 11 high school student who has just started his second year in the VPD Cadet program. We were fortunate to be able to get to know him through his own personal stories and also through the eyes of VPD Cadet Instructors, Constable Michelle Neufeld and Constable Mark Baird, who have led Travis through his Cadet journey since the beginning.
Travis experienced tragedy earlier in his high school years and has worked hard to overcome the effect it had on him. We are pleased to share his personal story of perseverance:
“My name is Travis, I’m in grade 11 and this is my second year in Cadets.
I’m going to take you back to grade 4 when I first moved to Canada. On the first day at school my new friends introduced me to basketball and I’ve been in love with the sport ever since. Graduating from elementary school was really exciting because I always wanted to go to high school because of basketball, friends and girls. Life was fun.
However, in December 2020 one of my close friends died very suddenly and I did not know how to handle it. I skipped class didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was always zoning out. After a while stuff was slowly getting better because of basketball. I even started to be a little bit more outgoing.
Then in April of 2021 another one of my very closest friends died. His name was Remy and I had known him since elementary school. We would always have sleepovers at my house, he was like my brother, and we always helped each other get through problems.
But in high school he started going on the wrong path. I tried my best to get him on the right path, but he kept going in the wrong way so I had to distance myself. But we still always checked up on each other. When I heard about him being in critical condition, I was confident that he would make it and get better. But he didn’t. He died. All I could think about is ‘why is this happening to me again?’ Coping with his death was even worse than the first time I had to go through it.
It was like I was sleeping through life after that. Until one day a VPD officer woke me up. We talked about Remy’s death. He was the one who introduced me to the VPD Cadets program. He and the other Constables treated me like family.
Since joining Cadets last September I’ve gotten so much better at everything. I feel like this is an opportunity that Remy left for me. It has made me such a better person. I have seen how much my mentality has changed overall and how I’m much more respectful to everyone. Cadets has made me a lot stronger mentally and physically.
To me, being a Cadet means you should look out for everyone, and it does not matter if you know them or not. Being a Cadet means making each other happy and stronger. It means having each other’s back, showing kindness, taking responsibility, and being dedicated. I never thought that I would make such real friends. Cadets has helped me so much.”
– VPD Cadet Travis
As Travis mentions, he has made incredible strides since joining Cadets. Dating back to his initial interview for the program, VPD Constables Neufeld and Baird observed he was struggling but he was also determined to better himself. Here is their account of how Travis has grown and excelled over the last 12 months:
“We accepted Travis into the Cadet program because we immediately saw Travis’s desire to make better choices and align himself with a supportive and healthy peer group – he just didn’t know how to go about doing this. We agreed that this would be a starting point for better choices. We were also drawn to Travis’s honesty, outgoing personality, and witty sense of humor.
At the start of the program, Travis tended to put his time, energy and value on the external – his physical appearance and validation from “popular” peers at school. As each Cadet Saturday passed by, Travis shifted his energy and focus on character and the core values of ICARE. Travis has come to realize that it’s what’s on the inside (your character) that counts, not always the outside.
Travis separated himself from peers that had been dragging him down and began to align himself with peers that lift him up. We have observed Travis value and invest in his fellow Cadet brothers and sisters that he may have previously ignored if they were in a school setting.
Travis has shown respect for himself and is taking the program seriously. He wants to be the shining example of excellence and accountability to this class. This year, he claimed his power as a leader and is taking every opportunity we have presented. He was promoted to Corporal then to Sergeant at the end of Class #8 to lead Class #9.
This year, we had two new Cadets join us that know Travis from school. They told us that the reason they applied to Cadets is because they saw such positive changes in Travis. They said he was nicer to everyone, received better grades, and had better time management.”
– Constable Michelle Neufeld and Constable Mark Baird