REACH Edmonton

The Police and Youth Engagement Program (PYEP) is already at capacity with 55 youth registered ahead of the two-week program in August.

PYEP is a youth-driven, two-credit high school course running Aug. 7 to 17 in 2018.

This year's registrants show diverse representation from multiple ethnocultural communities, including Somali, Sudanese, Syrian, Oromo, Eritrean, Iraqi, Rwandese, and Congolese.

Most participants were referred to the program by leaders in their communities but some were referred by older youth who have participated in PYEP previously and have come back as youth leaders and coordinators.

PYEP aims to build positive relationships with the Edmonton Police Service and youth from ethnocultural communities and empower the community leaders of tomorrow.

"Before I did the program, I didn't really think that police in Canada were nice," said Naol Tassisa, who participated in 2015 and was a youth leader in 2017.

"Having bad experiences with me and my family particularly in Ethiopia ... I didn't really think of police as they are here. So going to the program helped me to get to know them and find out for myself who they are."

On the first day of the program, police wear plain clothes to show the youth that they are just regular people.

"A lot of these youth and the families come from countries where they're oppressed by police," said Supt. Terry Rocchio, EPS liaison for PYEP.

"So we're just trying to show them that in this society, in Canada, the police are part of our community."

They take the teens on beat walks, teach them about local crime and engage in activities like soccer.

Currently, the 2018 youth leaders and coordinators are completing their training that will prepare them to run the program, with the help of police and a registered teacher, in August.

For more information about PYEP, click here.