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April 1, 2010
City honours Toronto Sports Leadership Program graduates
Today, Mayor David Miller and other City of Toronto representatives, in partnership with Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation, the Toronto Community Foundation, Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, United Way Toronto and the YMCA of Greater Toronto, celebrated the graduation of students from the Toronto Sports Leadership Program.

The graduates received congratulations from Mayor Miller in the City Hall council chamber. Certificates were awarded to the graduates at a ceremony and reception at the Metro Central YMCA, where the keynote speaker was Michael “Pinball” Clemons, CFL legend and Toronto Argonauts Vice-Chair.

“Today’s young graduates show what can be accomplished by hard work and dedication,” said Mayor Miller. “More importantly, with their newly-acquired skills, they also become community leaders and role models. Programs like these clearly demonstrate the value of community-capacity building, investing in young people and skills-building, and the positive impacts to our communities as a result.”

The Toronto Sports Leadership Program began in the fall of 2005, with the first students completing the program in May 2006. To date, about 500 students have graduated from the program - which aims to provide access to high-quality training for students at no cost and helps increase their ability to secure employment and increase the number of community youth leaders. It also helps prepare qualified youth from at-risk communities to be lifeguards, camp councillors, coaches and ski instructors. Many program graduates are now employed by the City’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation division.

The program grew out of Toronto’s Vital Signs®, an annual report card measuring the health of the city, produced by the Toronto Community Foundation. In 2005, the report identified issues involving youth violence and unemployment (which were at a 10-year high). This prompted the Toronto Community Foundation to convene leaders in the community to address the need to positively engage young people. The dialogues led to the creation of the Toronto Sports Leadership Program. The program benefits young people aged 16 and older who demonstrate leadership potential, have an interest and some proficiency in a selected sport, and could not otherwise afford the training.

The Toronto Sports Leadership Program engages youth from a diverse range of cultural communities and has expanded into neighbourhoods across the city.

"The program is a made-in-Toronto solution that responds to the issue of youth violence and high youth unemployment rates we continue to see in the city," explains Rahul Bhardwaj, President and CEO of the Toronto Community Foundation. "It not only provides youth from low-income neighbourhoods immediate benefits like nationally recognized training that leads to well-paying jobs, but the program will also have great impact by increasing the number of certified sports leaders in our city."

The Toronto Sports Leadership Program was inspired by the Mayor’s Panel on Community Safety, which focuses on investment and prevention through employment, education, training and mentorship, and engagement with all orders of government, community organizations, faith groups, the justice system and residents. One of the four pillars of the Community Safety Plan is offering youth opportunities. Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation was heavily involved in the development of this initiative and continues to be a key driver in the success of the program.

One of this year’s graduates said, "The program was fun - I was glad that I was a part of it."

Another graduate said, "I feel like a leader."

“The YMCA of Greater Toronto is proud to be a partner in the Toronto Sports Leadership Program, as it continues to have a positive impact on young people in the GTA,” said Medhat Mahdy, Interim President and CEO at the YMCA of Greater Toronto. “As a partner, the YMCA assists youth in their job search and has hired TSLP graduates in our health, fitness and recreation centres, and our summer camps. By providing meaningful employment opportunities, engaging youth in leadership skills, and building their competence and confidence, we are delivering on our mission and helping create stronger, healthier communities.”

The growth and tremendous impact of this program is credited to the collaboration between the six founding partners: Toronto Community Foundation; Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation; Toronto Catholic District School Board; Toronto District School Board; United Way Toronto and the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

All founding partners have made substantial in-kind donations over the five years to ensure the program’s success. The program has been funded through generous private donor contributions to the Toronto Community Foundation with matching funds from United Way Toronto. Supporting organization such as the Coaches Association of Ontario, Lifesaving Society-Ontario, Ontario Soccer Association, Ontario Basketball Association and the Canadian School of Ski Instructors’ Alliance assisted the project by waiving fees and/or providing material for free or at cost.

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents. For information about non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can dial 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Media contacts:
Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation media line, 416-560-8726,
Carole Boivin, Toronto Community Foundation, 416-921-2035 (Ext 212),
Stephanie Hurley, YMCA of Greater Toronto, 416-413-1020 (Ext 2339),



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