Inspiring Youth to New Heights
As a Neighbourhood Community Officer (NCO) in 22 Division, Constable Jermaine Watt was looking for ways to engage young people in his community.
The holder of a pilot license the last 16 years, Watt chose aviation, as a unique way to connect with young people.
“Flying is something I really enjoy,” he said. “I didn’t have the financial resources to go to flying school and get a licence when I was younger, so I chose to enroll in Police College, which was much cheaper. There are also not many Black youth who know how to get into the field and there are few Black pilots.”
With assistance from Constable Dave Evans, who is a 22 Division NCO and a Mechanical Engineer, the officers approached ProAction Cops & Kids for funding.
“They loved the pitch and gave us the funding needed,” Watt said.
Since its inception in 1991, ProAction Cops & Kids has become the largest private funder of Toronto Police programs for young people. The organization provides money for police mentorship programs from sports to arts to trades.
“Dave knows how to build and maintain engines, so we decided to combine our passions and start a program that will also include Math and Science,” said Watt. “The focus was not just on getting the youth interested in flying. We gave them the tools to consider careers in fields like air-traffic control and aeronautical engineering.”
The students learned in the classroom, touring historical planes, used a flight simulator and got up in the air.
The inaugural program ran from March until the end of August this year.
Watt said the response was overwhelming.
“We had over 50 kids from the Division that put in applications, but we had space for just 12,” he said, of the program that ranges in age from 10 to 16 that included components at the Division and the Brampton Flying Club.
“The youth also got the opportunity to meet Urban Black Pilots representative. The program was such a success that Peel and York Regional Police Services are coming on board next year.”
Of the dozen participants in the program, at least two have expressed an interest in becoming pilots.
Watt said the next program will start in March.
Youth interested in being part of the second cohort can e-mail Watt at [email protected] for more information.