Youth facing bullying at school can often breathe a sigh of relief during March Break. The West Scarborough Neighbourhood Community Centre, on the other hand, saw the break as an opportunity to quash bullying in the lives of youth.
The five-day anti-bullying program organized at the community centre concluded March 16.
Cynthia du Mont, executive director at the community centre, believes the program saw great results.
“We have just finished it last week but it’s successful by [looking at] all the reports from the youth and the facilitators,” she said, “We have to follow up with the youth in a certain amount of time and see how things are going.”
The community centre has a long history of dealing with youth. According to du Mont, the community centre has offered a youth justice service since 1987. The program deals with youth between 12 and 18 who had run-ins with the law.
Thanks to Toronto police, 15 youth participated in the workshop.
The recent influx of young people involved with assaults which was related to bullying [made us] decide that we needed to do something
— Davis Mitchell
“These young people were actually referred to us by the police divisions [of] the Toronto Police Services,” said Davis Mitchell, the divisional co-ordinator of the Youth Justice Service department at the community centre.
Mitchell explained the program was a pilot project. This year was the first time it was implemented at the centre.
“We have not had an anti-bullying program here in the past,” he said. “The recent influx of young people involved with assaults which was related to bullying [made us] decide that we needed to do something.”
As part of the program, Mitchell took participants on a tour last Wednesday of a local courthouse. They had the opportunity to talk to people who serve in the legal system, such as defense counsels and prosecutors.
“They had probably two hours with the judge,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell also says the anti-bullying program is an alternative to courts and charges for youth who have gotten into trouble.
“We work with three police divisions in Scarborough, and they have been referring us young people from junior and high school who have been assaulting people,” he said. “This is one way of diverting them from being charged or going to the court. We have put some early intervention programs in place and this is just one of them.”
Mitchell is looking forward to organizing more anti-bully programs.
“We are going to continue with the anti-bullying flavour in this place,” he said, “My hope is that we are going to have two cycles in the summer of the anti-bullying program.”