Program Coordinator, Tyndale St-Georges Community Centre: The Youth Internship Program, it's really a gang prevention program.
I believe selected in the first pilot was somewhere between 15 and 20 youth that had been in the criminal justice system. Basically, its focus is just to create an opportunity for alternative lifestyle.
This community is the largest social housing community in Montreal. Their whole community knows this life of gangs, drugs and violence.
I definitely think the internship is very innovative just because it's based upon their interests.
One of the big challenges is finding the internships. I think a lot of the companies are happy that it is free, that it doesn't cost them anything, I basically crack open the phone book and just find whatever I can. The internship is like a job so you have to be there at a certain time, you have to stay for so many hours; it requires a lot of responsibility and a lot of ownership on their part and a lot of proactiveness.
There is definitely a group of kids that just couldn't embrace it. We realized it was very difficult for them to stay committed to the internship. Cause money comes way faster in a life of crime. So it's either, I make $200 in an hour or I sit with you.
It's unfortunate that the program requires so much responsibility on their end. Unfortunately a lot of them aren't ready for that.
I realized, the children that I work with, they're not going to come to you. You really have to just go where they are. I basically stalk them 24-7. So text messaging and Facebook and twitter. I have to use all those mediums just to stay up to date with what they are doing. And they would just tell me the impact that had on them because if you are about to make a drug deal and then you get a text message from your community worker telling you how much she cares about you and wants the best for you, it's really hard to continue with that transaction.
Definitely a lot of kids enjoyed having that one on one support. But we realized that it just wasn't feasible for a worker, especially one worker. Youth in the criminal justice system just needed more. They needed more than a 30 hour internship and more than $200 that happened at the end, which isn't even minimum wage. They needed more than just six workshops and they needed more than just one worker. So when I came on, it became just at-risk kids so not high risk.
But from the findings from the pilot and from my own personal experiences being here, if there weren't opportunities created for something else, they wouldn't see that they could be more. That they could go to school and that they could get a real job and that they could actually make money.