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VIP grads rewarded with bike vouchers for putting in 20+ hours of community service

- Cop Camp cancelled due to COVID-19 -



by Sylene Argent

The COVID-19 pandemic may have halted in-class studies, and with it the OPP’s Values, Influences, and Peers (VIP) program that is taught to area grade six classes, but it did not stop Community Policing Officer, Sarah Werstein, from rewarding the students who went above and beyond the course requirements.

  As part of the annual VIP program, Werstein requires each of the students to earn one hour of community service, which helps the young learners to get a sense of community pride and help them understand the importance of giving back.

  On Sunday, Werstein awarded 12 VIP students from within the Municipality of Essex with a $200 bike voucher for Canadian Tire and a plaque for earning a minimum of 20 hours of community service throughout the schoolyear, despite it being cut short due to the pandemic.

  Most of those hours, she said, were earned between October and March.

  At the Harrow Arena parking lot, Benny Kopka, Julia Perrone, and Lucas Marlatt of Harrow Public School, Trevor Benoit of Ste Ursule, and Rayden Kimball of St. Anthony were awarded.

  At the Essex Centre Sports Complex parking lot, Alice St. Louis and Noemi Marczinko of Colchester North Public School, Nash Laforest, Makenzi Knowler-Shanahan, and Keegan Stack of Essex Public School, and Lyndon Souchuk and Nathan Hanrahan of Holy Name Catholic Elementary School were awarded.

  While making the presentations to the students, Werstein congratulated the VIP grads on going above and beyond to earn the additional community service hours, and thanked their parents for supporting their children in obtaining those hours. She said some of the youth exceeded the 20-hour minimum.

  These 12 students would have been selected by their teachers to go to the week-long Essex County OPP Cop Camp, which is held every August at GuessTwood Camp. Unfortunately, this year’s leadership camp was cancelled because of the Coronavirus.

  Every year, 80 graduates of the VIP program from OPP policed areas in Essex County are selected to participate in Cop Camp, based on their community service hours and their leadership qualities. The youth who are able to attend this fun-filled week, get to enjoy an array of activities, like boating, fishing, going to the movies, and bowling.

  Werstein noted this was the first time Cop Camp has been cancelled since it was established in 1994.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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