Sharing a cup of coffee with RCMP Staff Sgt. Del Byron and months of hands-on learning at a new youth program have turned life around for a high-risk teen in Williams Lake.
That’s what city council heard Tuesday evening at its regular meeting during a presentation about the restorative justice program called Innovative Interventions.
“We are finding young people who are either on probation or restorative justice process sanctions, taking them out to the Old School Training and Recreation Centre at Riske Creek and they are helping to renovate the building,” said Punky Lake Wilderness Society executive director Sarah Jackman of the program. “It is allowing these young people to learn some really valuable skills and while that’s happening they are receiving wonderful mentorship.”
In February, 17-year-old Brad Cross arrived at the Old School on a court order to fulfill some restorative justice hours.
He is now an employee, bringing home a paycheque.
As he sanded the bench inside the greenhouse being built at the centre for a farm school program, Brad said he would still be living on the streets with his bad habits if it wasn’t for the Old School.
“It has really reformed me,” he said. “Now I have a job laying carpet, doing tile work, drywalling and things like that.”
Brad has been learning skills from Craig Kennedy, who headed up the Toosey First Nations renovation project of the old school two years ago, and contractor Corwin Smid who came on board as a carpenter.
“It is very rewarding to meet these new individuals coming to us through the restorative justice program, probation, child development centre and Punky Lake, and teaching them new skills and watching them grow and succeed in something,” Kennedy told the Tribune. “Corwin Smid, Sarah Jackman and community safety co-ordinator Dave Dickson have been invaluable in getting this program off the ground and making it a success. The facility and the programs we are running have grown wings and continue to grow and evolve each month.”
Smid told city council Brad had total disrespect for the RCMP when he started the program.
“Then he suddenly got to see some of the officers that visited the old school and had conversations with then,” Smid said. “When Staff Sgt. Del Byron took him out for coffee, that just blew him apart. He actually realized ‘he bought me a coffee.’”
After that cup of coffee with Byron, Brad’s whole respect for the RCMP changed, Smid added.
“He realized these men are amazing individuals.”
Innovative Interventions is a partnership between the Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society, Toosey Band, RCMP community policing, Youth for Christ, the Williams Lake Community Council for Restorative Justice and youth probation.
Jackman secured enough funding for the program this year through a civil forfeiture grant and said, “it is wonderful to take the proceeds from crime and put them into a crime prevention program.”
So far about 10 youth have benefitted from the program, Smid said.