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March 25, 2003
Toronto firefighters become kids@computers mentors
Toronto - Firefighters from Toronto Fire Services have now become mentoring
partners in Toronto Social Services' kids@computers Scholarship Project. By
signing on as a project partner, Toronto Fire Services will offer enhancements
to this innovative project that provides computer orientations and home
computers for children and their families who are in receipt of social

Firefighters will attend computer orientation sessions and act as friends and
mentors to the scholarship winners, and they will also host expanded learning
sessions at the Toronto Fire Academy. At these sessions, the children learn
about fire safety, they can see first-hand how technology is used in fire
vehicles, and they gain a new insight into the value of physical fitness.

"We know that excellence in performance and in life begins with a vision of
where you want to go and a commitment to do what it takes to get there," said
Deputy Fire Chief Bill Stewart. "By sharing with these young people, we hope
that their vision will be expanded and this will be the start of a process that
will lead to their development."

"I am pleased to welcome Toronto Fire Services to an impressive team of
partners that is helping children bridge the digital divide," said Councillor
Olivia Chow, the City's Children and Youth Advocate. "Toronto's children need
every advantage they can get to succeed as the leaders of tomorrow, and they
are learning lessons in this project that they will carry throughout their
lives. It's a small investment of our time and money that is going to pay huge

Added Heather MacVicar, General Manager of Toronto Social Services, "With the
support of Toronto Fire Services and the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters'
Association, these kids are getting a special experience that they will never
forget. Toronto's firefighters are well-known for their contributions to the
community, and they can share this sense of citizenship with their new young
friends through this project."

Other City operations have also become partners with Toronto Social Services to
help thousands of children cross the digital divide. The list of City partners
helping to provide training facilities, training staff and mentoring
opportunities also includes Toronto Public Library, Toronto Parks and
Recreation, and the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.

The kids@computers Scholarship Project is supported by funds the City received
from the Province of Ontario for exceeding its Ontario Works targets. As well,
Social Services continues to seek partnerships with the private sector to help
provide computers and orientations for as many households as possible. For
example, Microsoft Canada has made a commitment to provide $3.5 million in
software and support over a three-year period.

Applications for the kids@computers Scholarship Project are taken through
Toronto Social Services offices, on a first-come, first-served basis. As part
of the application, children aged
8 - 14 have to write a short essay on why they want a computer, and include a
letter of reference from an adult in a position of responsibility.

From its pilot phase in 2001 to December 2002, over 2,050 families - including
over 6,800 children - have received computer orientations and home computers.
In 2003, a projected 1,500 families, including approximately 4,800 children,
will receive the technology they need to cross the digital divide to compete in
today's high-tech world.

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