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Cadets help youth turn a new page

The children of Sacred Heart Community School with their Christmas presents in the school gym.

Making a difference in the world starts with making a difference in your community and at Sacred Heart Community School in Regina, Saskatchewan, that change is being made through compassion, kindness and good books.

Nine years ago, Starla Grebinski, Sacred Heart’s principal, wanted to get her students more excited about reading. Starla began encouraging student involvement in the Sacred Heart Reading Program by offering rewards for books read. One hundred points will earn the student a trip to Chapters and a book of their choice. As more and more students began participating, the school started hosting monthly reading nights where parents and guardians could join their children for an evening of reading.

The RCMP got involved three years ago when Grebinski spoke about the success of the reading program at a local Rotary Club meeting. The Commanding Officer of Depot Division at the time, A./Commr. Louise Lafrance, saw an opportunity to help when she learned that many children couldn’t go to the reading nights because their parents or guardians were unwilling or unable to attend. She suggested that RCMP cadets could volunteer to act as reading buddies for those children who wouldn’t be able to attend otherwise.

At first, Grebinski was concerned about RCMP involvement because many of the students at Sacred Heart have a negative perception of police.

For these kids and their families, seeing a bus full of police officers was never a good sign. But now it’s a wonderful sign,” says Grebinski. “I was surprised at how important it became, not only to the students but to the parents. Many of the parents come from harder backgrounds, but no one should be afraid of cops and for them to see police officers helping their kids, it just means the world.

Lafrance says the success of the program comes from the relationships that are formed between the children and the cadets. “One teacher told me one of her students, a little girl, had witnessed a terrible crime and had to make a statement to police. She was absolutely traumatized but she was not scared to make the statement because when she sees police officers she thinks of the cadets that helped her read.

Grebinksi recently retired from teaching, but says she is confident that the reading program will continue with the help of school staff and the RCMP.

This year, during the staff’s annual holiday fundraiser where they raise money to buy each of the students Christmas presents, a troop of cadets also volunteered to help pass out the gifts and share in the holiday spirit.

People think solving the world’s problems requires huge studies and millions of dollars, but I believe it’s in the little things,” Grebinski says.