The Delta School District has been granted more than $100,000 by the B.C. government to help keep local kids out of gangs.
On Dec. 7, B.C.’s public safety ministry announced it was distributing $486,000 through the School District Mentorship Grant Program, allowing 24 school districts to create programming for students who are in danger of being recruited by gangs. Students will receive coaching and mentoring with a focus on building stronger and positive connections to community, culture and relationships, the ministry said in a press release.
“We need to work together to make sure young people are knowledgeable and resilient,” Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in a press release. “By supporting our schools and investing in early intervention and prevention programs, we’re addressing the root of the issue and diverting vulnerable youth from joining gangs in the first place.”
In a press release Dec. 8, the Delta School District said it plans to use the funding to support individual and group mentoring initiatives designed to counter gang recruitment and associated gang lifestyle-related risks for youth, as well as reinforce healthy relationships and values.
“We are thrilled to receive this grant,” school board chair Val Windsor said in the press release. “District staff have already been working in partnership with the Delta Police Department, Yo Bro/Yo Girl Youth Initiative and the Ministry of Child and Family Development to help prevent youth being recruited by gangs, and to provide support where we know youth are already on the path to gang involvement by providing timely and targeted interventions. This new funding will enable us to widen the scope and impact of this important work already underway.”
Joanna Angelidis, the district’s director of learning services – inclusive learning, said gang recruitment is a growing and serious issue in Delta, adding the district is seeing more local youth engaging in high-risk behaviours associated with early gang involvement.
“In addition, we are seeing an increase in the intensity and frequency of the risks and difficulties youth face in our community,” Angelidis said in a press release. “It is so important that we provide wrap-around supports and services to help vulnerable youth and their families. This support needs to be multi-dimensional and extend beyond the school walls, including after school and over the weekend. This grant will go a long way to help us deliver that.”
Students experiencing vulnerabilities such as mental health difficulties, food security challenges, minimal positive relationships with their peers and limited access to extra-curricular activities are often the ones that district staff see moving along the path to gang recruitment.
Angelidis said the one-time $100,500 grant will allow the district to expand its current programming to support an additional 20 youths. As well, the funds will support a youth and family engagement worker who is solely dedicated to helping youth and their families access community-based supports and services, including mental health-related supports (counselling services, art therapy, etc.), healthy recreational activities, food security, housing services and various other valuable therapies.
“We are extremely thankful to have received this grant, and look forward to maximizing the impact of the youth mentorship empowerment team,” Angelidis said.
The School District Mentorship Grant Program was developed by B.C.’s education and public safety ministries as part of an education-based anti-gang program called ERASE (Expect Respect and A Safe Education). The program also carries out analysis of concerning or risky student behaviour, as well as educator training and identification of local resources for support and capacity building within school districts.
— with files from Karl Yu