With the recent rash of shootings in Surrey, the provincial government is attempting to stop kids from getting involved in gang activity. And according to solicitor general Mike Morris, the Surrey Wraparound (Wrap) program based in Surrey schools is getting recognition across the country for successfully helping kids break free from the gang lifestyle.
On Thursday morning, surrounded by numerous students at Princess Margaret Secondary who are currently involved in the program, Morris credited the Wrap program with allowing teens to see that there’s an alternative way of enjoying life and contributing to a healthy lifestyle.
“The Surrey Wrap program is something I fully endorse,” said Morris. “I think their budget is somewhere in the $1.5 million range, we just contributed another $300,000 to the program and the wait list is indicative of how successful this program is. We’re looking at another funding mechanism to alleviate that wait list.”
The program is a partnership between the Surrey School District and Surrey RCMP and is designed to intervene with young people who are making poor choices and are involved in criminality or heading toward youth gangs, said Rob Rai, Director of School and Community Connections with the district.
Students can exhibit tell-tale signs such as declining grades, having been caught with drugs or physical confrontations at school, according to Rai. Students who have a history with the RCMP are often referred to the program through a school principal or a teacher.
“We assess a young persons life, we see what they’re doing as a person, who they’re hanging out with, what they’re doing in school, what they’re family is like and you look for strengths and weaknesses,” said Rai.
“If they have this incredible talent for dance or wrestling but can’t overcome the financial barriers, we’ll pay for that. If they’re struggling in school we’ll make sure they get additional support. We’ll set them up in supported programs over the summer so that they flourish.”
Currently the program has room for 31 students but according to Rai, he and his team could be working with as many as 300 kids. But for him, the key is prevention and to get the students ‘upstream’ before they have a criminal record or are involved in gang activity.
‘Regardless of how much we put in to the system, we need to focus on prevention as well, and catch some of these kids upstream,” he said. “And were doing that now, we call it pre-wrap.”
If a problem classroom or student is identified, his team will attempt to reach out and offer positive support.
According to Rai, once the students enter the program, negative police contact drops by 60-70 per cent.
Buven Brar, 18, joined the wrap program in April 2015 following an ‘incident’ and feels the program has helped him focus on what is important and look to the future.
While in the program, he was offered a tutor, someone who took him to the gym and provided constant guidance and structure.
“Since joining the wrap program I have graduated from high school and I’m looking at going to trades school. I seriously don’t think I could have done it without them,” he said “It changed my life in a big way. I want to become an electrician and have my own house and my own car.”
Another graduate of the program, Ashley, 17, who preferred not to give her last name, was expelled from school and staying home when she got involved in Wrap.
“In the program, I learned that I can’t give up and I have to keep going and making mistakes is a part of life,” she said. Because of the program, she enrolled at another Surrey high school and graduated on time, something she is extremely grateful for. She credits the one-on-one help and the mentorship for finishing high school and now has enrolled in a massage therapy program.
Ashley said she would recommend the opportunity for anyone going down the wrong road.
“I would say it’s really a good opportunity. You learn so much, you meet different people and do different things.
“It’s a really good (program) for anyone to try.”