A Toronto non-profit is partnering with local police to offer free driving lessons to youth in the city who face barriers getting their licences.
Richard Gosling, the president of The Children's Breakfast Clubs, said the club got the idea for a program like this after giving kids bicycles to get to and from work, school and around their communities.
"And on doing that, we realized that the need is there for our kids to have an opportunity to get their driver's licence, and how empowering that is," said Gosling.
"It's a rite of passage."
Starting Saturday, Toronto police officers will teach youth aged 16 to 20 driving basics and the dangers of stunt, distracted and impaired driving, and later assist them through the G1 and G2 licence process. The program, funded by The Children's Breakfast Club, aims to help 100 kids who may not necessarily have "the means" to learn how to drive, said traffic services Sgt. Melissa Kulik.
"They may be able to drive a younger sibling around once ... they're able to drive on their own, help get the groceries, or more importantly, apply for jobs that require you to have a licence," said Kulik.
The program also helps police officers engage and support youth in the community, said Kulik.
"Building those relationships between police and the youth goes a long way in our community," she said.
Students, parent excited about program
Sheryl Jones says she's grateful her daughter has the opportunity to learn how to drive through this program.
"When you have experts in front of you who are giving you the information and you're able to ask questions, I think that's more impactful than reading the book and taking the test," said Jones.
Sheryl Jones, left, says she's grateful her daughter is being taught by Toronto police officers how to drive. Arisha Munif, middle and Roshaun Telfer, right, are students in the course and say they're excited to learn how to get around by car by themselves. (Spencer Gallichan-Lowe/CBC)
Roshaun Telfer, 16, says he learned about the program through the job that he got through the Toronto police's Youth In Policing Initiative, which gives some kids aged 15 to 18 employment through the summer and throughout the year. The first cohort is comprised of youth from this program.
While he says he can get nervous at the idea of memorizing all the different rules and signs when it comes to driving, Telfer says he's looking forward to driving.
"My older cousin, my older brother is driving and they have their own cars already so ... I just wanna experience it," said Telfer.
Arisha Munif, another student in the first cohort, said the class has been interactive and engaging so far. The 16-year-old says she's excited at the prospect of being able to travel independently, especially when she gets a job.
"It's kind of nerve wracking, but it's a little exciting because ... you have that freedom, you can go wherever you want without having to depend on other people to take you," said Munif.