'Hey, I can do this' Indigenous teens meet with first responders

First Responders, along with Indigenous youth groups and the Thames Valley District School Board, came together for the Youth First Cultural Exchange program.

The goals are to strengthen the relationship between Indigenous youth and those on the front lines of emergency situations and give youth the opportunity to learn more about emergency services as a possible career choice.

Constable Theresa Allott said the relationship “…is pretty good, but we want to get stronger. We want the message to spread about how people can relate to first responders and how first responders can recruit youth and teach them more about the jobs.”  

Allott hopes this program will expand. She wants to see more Indigenous people in policing and other emergency services.

‘I can do this’

“Just being back here today, [my daughter] said, I want this career. She thought about it 3 years ago but she got distracted because of [her smaller size],” said Rochelle Cornelius, a youth coordinator at N’Amerind Friendship Centre. “Seeing … police officers today, she thought, ‘Hey I can do this.'” 

The program also allows youth to become engaged in scenarios that test their skills and knowledge while teaching them how to respond to emergency situations.

Each young person receives a rookie badge and orange shirt. (Maram Hijazi/CBC)

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to share with people as well as to learn and to be here in the present, being part of history, because I feel this program will do amazing things,” said Dion Ovangrosbeck, a youth working with Atlhosa Native Family Healing Services.

“Although we come from different backgrounds, we all need to come together and work together to better our future and ourselves,” said Jordyn Cornelius, a youth attending the program. “It’s definitely an eye opener and it’s so nice to see that even though you’re not part of, or practice, our traditions you’re open minded and are willing to learn.” 

All youth who attended the three day program were given “rookie” badges and had the opportunity to ask first responders questions. It was a chance to learn about what it’s like to work in the field, something organizers hope they’ll hold onto when they’re choosing a career. 

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