By Ron Fanfair
(January 15, 2015) – With encouragement from music teacher Vandana Sharma, Lovejeet Bhatti took up her North Albion Collegiate Institute’s music teacher’s offer to apply for the Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) summer program in 2008.
Convinced she was unsuccessful after a lengthy period had elapsed since her application was submitted, Bhatti was shocked when she received a call from Toronto Police YIPI administrator Melva Radway.
“I honestly believed she had called to tell me thanks for applying and I didn’t make it,” said Bhatti. “When she said that I was in, I started to cry. I can vividly recall that moment because it was the first job that I was offered.”
Since the program’s inception in 2006, high school students from the city’s designated priority neighbourhoods are paid to work alongside Service members in administrative and support roles.
A member of the Outreach 360 charity that went to the Dominican Republic in 2011 to teach English to underprivileged youths, Bhatti said the job was worth more than the money.
“I secured valuable job skills, confidence and a passion for working in the community,” she added. “That’s precious.”
A recent University of Guelph/Humber graduate, Bhatti was honoured at the Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI) Greater Toronto Area Public Heroes Media Awards media launch on January 12 at York Regional Police headquarters in Aurora.
The nomination deadline for this year’s Public Heroes Awards is March 12. The awards, given to police, firefighters and paramedics, are chosen using the criteria of altruism, dedication and community involvement.
As part of the launch ceremony, awards were presented to three young people aspiring to become police officers, firefighters and paramedics.
“I was very honoured to be nominated,” said Bhatti. “Even if I did not win this honour, I will still continue to do what I do because I love Toronto Police and working in the community.”
Bhatti plans to apply to the Toronto Police Service in 2016 after completing a one-year Certificate in Corrections and Forensic Practice at Humber College.
“My career goal is to work with Toronto Police as either a uniformed or civilian member,” she said.
Deputy Chief Peter Sloly presented the award to Bhatti, who graduated from university in 2014 with an applied science degree.
“Chief Bill Blair, Alok Mukherjee (the Toronto Police Services Board Chair), Keith Forde (a retired Deputy Chief) and Mary Anne Chambers (a former provincial minister) conceived this program not only as a recruiting and hiring project for young people to give them a good job and good experience,” said Sloly. “All of those things are important. They, however, conceived the program as a pathway to the police service, not just at an entry level, but at the highest point.
“Lovejeet’s resume, educational background and talent, along with her natural leadership skills are quite evident. She’s a natural communicator and someone who could be a successful frontline police officer or senior manager. We hope that she puts her application in and we can snag her before her talent goes somewhere else. This is exactly how the YIPI program should work.”
In its fifth year, the Public Heroes Awards recognize cops, firefighters and paramedics for their outstanding work.
“The awards are just one way that we, as a community, can honour our cops, firefighters and paramedics for the excellent work they do each and every day,” said IDI executive vice-president Fatih Yegul.
IDI is a non-profit group that seeks to promote social cohesion through interfaith and intercultural cooperation, tolerance and dialogue, by sharing differences and similarities through various forums.
York Regional Police Deputy Chief Andre Crawford said his Service was honoured to host the youth awards and Public Heroes Awards media launch.
“This is one of Canada’s most diverse communities,” he noted. “We have residents who trace their heritage and ancestry to all corners of the world. Here at York Regional Police, we strive to always engage our citizens by creating programs that are unique to our population.”
IDI hosting and selection committee members Staff Superintendent Richard Stubbings and Constable Johnny Bobbili attended the media launch.
This year’s awards ceremony takes place on April 9 at Oak Ridges Community Centre in Richmond Hill.
Previous winners include Staff Sergeant Stephen Hicks, Constables Lance Verdoold, Johnny Bobbili, Sharon Kent, Mike Manzke and Sgt. Ryan Russell, who was honoured posthumously in 2012.
Visit publicheroes.org to nominate a police officer, firefighter or paramedic for an award.
First published on TPSNews and reprinted on IQRA.ca with permission of the Toronto Police Service.