Yo Bro Youth Initiative
Created November 15, 2012 by Yo Bro Youth Initiative
Statistics Canada has reported that the most common age of people accused of a crime is 18 years old, and that delinquent behaviour is significantly more common among youth who reported having consumed drugs (60% vs. 16%); have delinquent friends (27% vs. 11%); and have little parental supervision (56% vs. 12%)1. Research also shows that youth coming from impoverished, distressed families; who do poorly in school, have low attachment to school and teachers; and who associate with delinquent peers are at increased risk for becoming gang members2. There are a growing number of youths where we currently work (East Vancouver and Surrey) who live in conditions as just described: poverty, abusive situations, addictions, unstable homes, and academic distress. Yo Bro Youth Initiative was created in direct response to the growing number of young people that are either falling through the cracks at school or are already engaged in self-destructive behaviour. The goal of the program is to identify youth before they are drug, gang or street entrenched and offer positive support systems that will enable them to develop resiliency, health living skills, proactive coping skills, and avoid the pitfalls that can derail their lives. Impact – In operation since 2009, Yo Bro Youth Initiative provides programs for at-risk high school youth in the Greater Vancouver area. The program has already formed partnerships with local school districts, the Vancouver Police Department, and various community agencies. Joe Calendino, the founder of Yo Bro Youth Initiative, has dedicated himself to connecting with youths who are at risk for abusing drugs or joining gangs. He speaks from the heart, detailing his personal experiences as a former drug addict and Hells Angels member in order to teach teens to avoid making the same mistakes that he did. Joe is the subject of the documentary Yo Bro: The Joe Calendino Story, produced by Odd Squad Productions. Brenda Frisse, the Program Manager for Yo Bro Youth Initiative, is a registered Clinical Counsellor and Coordinator for Chilliwack School District Student Services with many years of experience in conducting assessments with at-risk children and youth and gaining them access to needed social and community services. The program consists of 4 main components: In Team Yo Bro Fitness and Personal Safety teens participate in a structured program of physical fitness, personal safety training, and team-building exercises helping them build peer group connections, acceptance and confidence through physical activity. In Taking It To the Streets, Joe provides the youths with an authentic and positive role model, a peer group that will challenge them to think about joining the gang life and using drugs, and tools and skills that they can use to build a better life. Keep It Real – Yo Bro 1 to 1 focuses on students who are chronically suspended from school and offers 1 to 1 time for participants, including formal assessment, counselling, and access to other community programs. In Yo Bro Mentors, youths “graduate” through the program to become mentors after they have completed training in peer leadership and communication/conflict resolution, increasing everyone’s sense of community. Likelihood of Success - Research indicates that efforts addressing the risk factors that increase the likelihood of youth joining gangs (like social isolation) is among the most effective and cost-efficient means of reducing gangs and youth violence3,4. Youth and their families must be connected to community groups to help them re-establish positive social networks5. Over 4500 students have attended a Yo Bro group presentation over the past two years. Of the 150 current participants and the 140 participants from last year, we have found that the majority have increased school attendance, get better grades, and have fewer trips to the office for discipline at school. We will be further developing indicators of success as the program continues, including asking participants for their opinions and feedback on the Yo Bro programs so that can be even more effective. We need resources for recreational equipment, supplies, healthy meals and snacks, and some administrative assistance to expand our vision into other schools and communities that are in need of strengthening. We will continue to work with the VPD and other community agencies to determine where best to expand to, as well as growing through word of mouth and other connections to troubled youths. To fully realize our vision of expansion of programs, we estimate the costs to be approximately $140K.Sustainability - Over time, Yo Bro Youth Initiative will create a learning environment that will be an invaluable resource to young people, aspiring mentors and the community at large. An important focus of the Yo Bro initiative is teaching youths that they must “pay it forward” to continue to strengthen themselves and their communities. Vancouver Police Judo, Odd Squad Productions, and North Shore Search and Rescue have already participated in training and mentorship of the youth, and we will continue to enroll additional community partners. We will also be using a small amount of the funds to contract the services of a report writer to write a business case and to look for additional funding after 2013 from participating School Boards and other possible funders.