St. Mary’s University YARD Program

The Cause

The Youth at Risk Development Program (YARD) is a community-based early intervention initiative that supports youth who are at risk of gang involvement. YARD works with youth aged 10-17 who are currently at risk, affiliated with a gang or involved in gang activity. Youth participation in YARD is voluntary. YARD teams, consisting of a police officer and a registered social worker, work closely with youth, their families, schools and community agencies. YARD works to develop an individualized case plan that is family centered in order to help youth at risk avoid or escape the gang life style (City of Calgary).
St. Mary’s involvement with the YARD program extends to our Education department, and more specifically to the students of the Bachelor of Education program (BEd). These students are given the opportunity to work as mentors to youth at risk with the YARD program. This not only provides our BEd students with practical experience but also supports a greater need in our community for peer mentors for marginalized and at risk youth.
Through Funding from the Field Law Fund, St. Mary’s would like to grow this very successful initiative with the YARD program by:
• Providing resources to get more St. Mary’s students involved in the program
• Providing more supplies and materials for the St. Mary’s students to use during their visits and mentorship program with YARD participants
• Host events to celebrate the participants and allow them to share their experiences

Who Will it Benefit?

This partnership provides huge benefits to everyone involved. It empowers at risk youth to
make positive choices and recognize alternative solutions. It allows the Calgary Police Service to
save money on the providing resources serving the communities affected by the negative impact of youth at risk. It also allows the Educations students from St. Mary’s to get real world experience with providing education to students, while at the same time making a tremendous contribution to the community.

This program not only benefits those youth at risk who participate, but also our Bachelor of Education students who are provided with the opportunity to work as mentors. This experience provides our BEd Students with a unique opportunity to work with a population of youth who would not typically be included in most curriculums. Our students are better prepared for working with students outside of a university class setting and gain valuable communication, and leadership skills. These skills will support their development as educators and as engaged and compassionate citizens. Skills obtained while working as peer mentors are transferable to all classroom settings where the needs and abilities of each individual student will vary extensively.
Positive results of this partnership means there is decreased gang activity and recruitment, increased ability to make positive and informed decisions, and stronger relationships between families, the community, and the police (Calgary Police, 2015). Based on a 2014 study the Calgary police have found that YARD participation led not only to reduced criminal involvement, but also reported that the proportion of clients who identified a positive adult role model that they would like to emulate increased after participation. St. Mary’s BEd students’ involvement in this program will provide more youth with positive role models to emulate and look up to.