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April 12, 2011
City honours graduates of Toronto Sport Leadership Program
Mayor Rob Ford and City of Toronto staff, in partnership with Toronto Community Foundation, Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, United Way Toronto and the YMCA of Greater Toronto, today marked the graduation of students from the Toronto Sport Leadership Program. Mayor Ford congratulated the graduates at the start of today's City Council meeting in the City Hall Council Chamber.

After the recognition ceremony at City Hall, graduation certificates were awarded at a reception at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. The reception featured keynote speaker Ann Peel, an Olympian, world-champion race walker and equity advocate.

"This year's 150 graduates are to be congratulated for obtaining certification in first aid and coaching in aquatics, tennis and skiing," said Mayor Ford. "After an 80- to 120-hour commitment to training, these young people now qualify to become lifeguards, rink guards, camp counsellors, coaches, and ski and tennis instructors. Their new skills will also give them the foundation to become future leaders and role models in their communities.”

The Toronto Sport Leadership Program began in 2005, with the first students completing the program in May 2006. To date, more than 650 students have graduated from the program.

The goal is to give students access to high-quality training to improve their ability to secure future employment. The program helps prepare qualified youth from at-risk communities to be lifeguards, camp counsellors, coaches and ski and tennis instructors. The students receive all training and certification at no cost to them. Many program graduates are now employed by the City's Parks, Forestry and Recreation division.

“These young athletes are true leaders in our community. As coaches and mentors, they are the ones who will make a difference in the lives of other young people right across the city,” said Susan McIsaac, President and CEO of United Way Toronto. “At United Way, we’re committed to helping young people be all they can be. We fund programs and initiatives that help youth participate in their community, do well in school, lead change in their neighbourhoods, and grow into healthy, successful adults.”

The Toronto Sport Leadership Program grew out of Toronto’s Vital Signs®, an annual quality of life report produced by the Toronto Community Foundation. In 2005, the report identified issues involving youth violence and unemployment. That prompted the foundation to convene leaders in the community to address the need to positively engage young people. Those dialogues led to the creation of the Toronto Sport Leadership Program.

The program benefits young people 16 and older who demonstrate leadership potential and have an interest and some proficiency in a sport but could not afford training. The Toronto Sport Leadership Program engages youth from a diverse range of cultural communities and has expanded into neighbourhoods across the city.

“When we approached our fund-holders to help start this innovative program, they recognized the potential for it to change lives and strengthen communities, and immediately came on board," said Rahul K. Bhardwaj, President and CEO of Toronto Community Foundation. "Now we are very pleased to congratulate all of today’s graduates for their hard work and the leadership they have demonstrated through their commitment to completing the program. We are confident that they will continue to excel.”

The Toronto Sport Leadership Program focuses on investment and prevention through employment, education, training, mentorship, and engagement with all orders of government, community organizations, faith groups, the justice system and residents.

“By providing a strong start to Toronto’s vulnerable youth and increasing access to employment opportunities, such as YMCA lifeguards or camp counsellors, we are ensuring that they have the skills needed for a great future,” said Medhat Mahdy, President and CEO, YMCA of Greater Toronto.” The YMCA is proud to be a collaborative partner on this wonderful initiative and would like to congratulate all new graduates of the Toronto Sport Leadership Program.”

The growth and impact of this program is credited to the collaboration among the six founding partners: Toronto Community Foundation; the City of Toronto's Parks, Forestry and Recreation division; Toronto Catholic District School Board; Toronto District School Board; United Way Toronto and the YMCA of Greater Toronto. All founding partners have made substantial donations to ensure the program’s success. Supporting organizations such as the Coaches Association of Ontario, the Lifesaving Society - Ontario, the Ontario Soccer Association, the Ontario Basketball Association, Tennis Canada and the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance assisted the project by waiving fees and/or providing material for free or at cost.

About United Way: Established in 1956, United Way Toronto is a charity working to advance the common good and create opportunities for a better life for everyone in our city. Working in partnership with others, we mobilize people and resources to address the root causes of social problems and to change community conditions for the better. United Way supports agencies that provide services to strengthen individuals, families, and communities.

About Toronto Community Foundation: Community vitality has been the purpose, promise, and passion of the Toronto Community Foundation since 1981, when we started connecting donors to community needs and opportunities. Home to hundreds of endowment funds, we help people invest their charitable giving in Toronto, making it the best place to live, work, learn and grow. We monitor the quality of life in our city, identifying its strengths and weaknesses through our Toronto’s Vital Signs® Report. We provide the leadership and guidance to bring people together from all parts of our community. We exist for Toronto - for now and for always.

About the YMCA of Greater Toronto: Established in 1853, the YMCA of Greater Toronto is a charity connecting with more than 504,000 people at 274 locations. Serving the population of the GTA, Durham, Peel, York, Halton Regions and Dufferin County, the YMCA works to build strong kids, families and communities. The YMCA, in partnership with more than 250 organizations, offers a variety of programs responding to the needs of the community, including employment, education, newcomer programs, youth outreach and intervention, fitness and recreation, child care and camps.

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. Toronto's government is dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city. For information on non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can dial 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Media contact:
Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation media line, 416-560-8726,



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