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Two YSM Staff stafnd with 4 graduates from YSM's HOPE program stand together holding their certificates and smiling through PPE masks.

HOPE for a second chance

“The HOPE program is going to help me have a foundation. I want to do better for my mom, but I also want to do better for me,” said Kevin, one of eight recent graduates of YSM’s HOPE (Helping Offenders on Probation Excel) program. “Everyone can say they love themselves, but they have to show it every day.”

Operating as part of YSM’s Evergreen Centre, the HOPE program supports the rehabilitation and reintegration of youth aged 16-29 who are on probation, parole or bail programs. Providing wrap-around support, HOPE builds relationships with youth, supports them in skill development and training, thereby reducing their risk of re-offending.

On Sept 25th a hybrid graduation ceremony was held to celebrate the accomplishments of the participants. With a small in person gathering, guests and YSM staff were invited to virtually join the festivities to show support for all eight graduating youth who have been working hard to improve their futures.

A number of special guest speakers shared words of encouragement, from comedian Kenny Robinson to Dr. Reece, a Ryerson Sociology professor; community police officer Swift to Mayor Tory and MPP Chris Glover, all of whom expressed their pride in the graduates and offered wisdom and support for their futures.

In Mayor John Tory’s video message to the graduates, he acknowledged the importance of programs like HOPE, which help young people get back on track. He went on to say, “but most of all, most important of all, I congratulate the graduates – Melissa, Alexander, Teianna, Dion, Neil, Kevin, Zakariye, Noah. Each and every one of you have shown the effort, the discipline, the commitment to chart a new course . . . As you graduate, please know that your Mayor and your entire city are behind you.”

Graduates were each welcomed to the front, accompanied by a personal video message from a YSM staff member who’d assisted them on their journey. The pride and joy as they received a certificate and graduation gift was evident – even through a computer screen and face-masks! It was obvious the show of support will not soon be forgotten.

Each of these youth have challenging histories, harsh stories to tell, and many may have given up on their own futures. Instead, because you, YSM and the HOPE program were here, believing in them until they believed in themselves, we’ve been able to continue supporting and encouraging them as they step into the next chapter of their lives. Thank you for the vital role you played in this joy-filled celebration.

Click here to learn more about the HOPE program.