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The provincial government announced the expansion of the ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education) at North Surrey Secondary on Dec. 5. Above, former Surrey student Jesse Ralen speaks to the importance of programs that keep at-risk kids on the right path. Lisa Sutherland (below), a parent at North Surrey Secondary, also addressed the crucial role such programs play in supporting and informing students and their families.
More at-risk students in Surrey and White Rock – and across the province – will get the supports they need to get off the pathway to gang life through the expansion of the ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education) school-based gang and gun violence prevention program.
The provincial government announced it is investing an additional $4.93 million over the next three years to provide immediate support to students, parents, educators, law enforcement and community partners through gang prevention and awareness training programs in Campbell River, Chilliwack, Courtenay and Hope. The funding, building on $1.12 million previously announced for the program in March 2019, will also provide ongoing support in Surrey and the other 11 previously named communities of Abbotsford, Burnaby, Delta, Kamloops, Kelowna, Langley, Nanaimo, Prince George, Vancouver, Victoria and Williams Lake.
"As young people, we want to feel safe when we're at school so we can focus on our futures," said Jesse Ralen, a former Surrey student who is an alumni of the WRAP program and graduate from STEP. "Programs like the ones I was involved in when I was in school and the one being announced today can help us do that by making sure we have access to the supports to make decisions that keep us on the right track. We all have one chance at this life; live it right!"
The gang prevention program, in its second year, provides education and training opportunities for students, parents, educators, law enforcement officials and representatives of community-based organizations.
"Too often we hear about the devastating effects of gang life on B.C. youth and their families, which is why we're taking targeted action and offering intensive supports in B.C. communities that need help the most," said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. "By focusing on training and prevention we are taking important action to support young people earlier and give parents, schools and communities a way to work together toward positive futures."
The new funding, announced by Fleming and Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General at North Surrey Secondary, will offer stakeholders newly developed training and resources focused on gang and gun violence prevention. Student and parent education sessions on gun and gang violence prevention will also be tailored for each community. To date, more than 8,000 students, parents, educators and community partners have participated in 110 training and education sessions in the initial 12 priority communities.
North Surrey Secondary parent Lisa Sutherland was pleased ERASE is being expanded and that school communities will be able to "create and sustain" safe and caring environments that are safe and supportive for students and families.
"Students today are exposed to a variety of complex challenges as they navigate their childhood and teenage years, and sometimes parents are not aware of how to support their children on this journey," she said.
Each of the 16 priority school districts will receive grants to support the development of local programming, like after-school clubs, and other supports for at-risk youth. The new funding will also provide localized monthly reports on public social media activity related to gang activity to all 60 B.C. school districts.
"For students, we will be able to develop and expand after-school and other specialized gang prevention initiatives for at-risk youth," said Laurie Larsen, chair of the Surrey Board of Education. "And education sessions for both parents and students – specifically tailored to our unique community – will help inform and encourage crucial conversations at home."
Safer Schools Together, the Ministry of Education's service delivery partner for the student safety components of ERASE, is continuing to develop a new resource for B.C. educators, connected to the provincial Physical and Health Education curriculum. The new resource will be made available in early 2020 and will include information videos and a teacher's guide to help students develop healthy relationships, avoid unsafe or exploitive situations, and protect themselves from harm.