The provincial government says it will provide $486,000 to fund mentorship programs in 24 school districts to help vulnerable young people avoid gang and criminal lifestyles.
The funding, administered through the School District Mentorship Grant Program, will allow school districts to develop initiatives for youth who encounter gang recruitment. Students will receive coaching and mentoring with a focus on building stronger and positive connections to community, culture and relationships, according to a release from the province.
“We need to work together to make sure young people are knowledgeable and resilient,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general. “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.”
Programs will be delivered in partnership with educators, non-profit organizations, Elders, counsellors and others. Many of the school districts will also deliver culturally supportive programs to young people, as well as programs to vulnerable Indigenous youth, according to the release.
One example is Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District’s one-on-one mentorship and cultural support program to assist youth at the highest risk of being recruited by a gang or who are currently gang-affiliated.
The School District Mentorship Grant Program was developed by the ministries of education and public safety and solicitor general as part of the Erase strategy, an education-based anti-gang program. The Erase program also carries out analysis of concerning or risky student behaviour, educator training, identification of local resources for support and school district capacity building.