The Importance of Youth Community Service
On April 24th I had the honour of launching, with Mayor Bowman and University of Winnipeg President Trimbee, the new youthunited@ winnipeg program This is a 2 year pilot project. The city is funding the project, at $200,000 per year, while the University of Winnipeg is administering. It's a summer program involving 20 U of W students, 10 from the suburbs and 10 from the inner city. Each student is placed with an inner city social agency to work four days / week. On the fifth day the students all attend a U of W credit course studying the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Creating an "urban peace corps" has been a long-time dream of mine. I wrote about it in the 1990's and included a version of it in my platform when I ran (unsuccessfully) for Toronto City Council in the 1990's. The US has had the City Year model started in Boston in 1988 and now found in more than 20 US cities. I have visited City Year Boston, San Antonio and Columbus, and in 2014 I hosted City Year reps in Winnipeg. They emphasized one key thing : do something - but make it fit for your city.
With youthunited we have found a made in Canada model. We are keeping the idealistic vision of young people crossing the tracks and learning about the inner city (and inner city learning about suburban youth). But we are also bringing a discussion of reconciliation with indigenous peoples into the program - certainly a key topic for Winnipeg.
I am proud that I continued to push for this concept for 26 years, and I thank the Mayor and U of W, and I especially thank my wife who told me a few years ago “don’t quit now - you've never been closer". Now - to convince other cities and other governments to follow our lead!