Cops help get youth on track
MONTREAL - When one pictures Montreal police and at-risk youth running in the city, one might have a picture of an officer chasing a mischievous youth.
But the Oasis Marathon will be the stage of a far more harmonious image of five police officers running alongside some youthful protegees, as part of a project in which the officers mentor the youth, stressing the importance of fitness, nutrition and discipline.
The young people, all aged between 15 and 17, are now set to run a complete 42-kilometer marathon Sunday, which is a far cry from where they were before they started training.
“When I began I couldn’t do five minutes,” said Maria Rosario.
The young runners are from schools plagued by higher-than-average rates of crime and gangs.
And every part of the three-times-a-week training helps them focus on running their lives in a disciplined manner.
“You have to take the bus, come here and train so it commits them to get themselves out of trouble,” said police officer Harry Apostolopoulos.
One young runner said that long-distance running has whipped him into shape.
“At first I wasn't really expecting to be able to run a marathon but now I'm sure I will be able to run it,” said Brandyn Reddick, 17, who reports to having lost 30 pounds since starting his running ways.
The three-year-old program appears to be succeeding in its goal to build trust between police and the teens.
“For me it's really important to create a relationship between the police officers in the street and the kids,” said Pierre Brochet, who created the program.
And it has broken down barriers of prejudice on both sides.
“I didn’t like the police very much before but now after we ran with them and got to know them, I think they’re really nice,” said student Nabil Mohammedi.
The event has even helped one young man decide his future career path.
“Because of this training I decided that I want to become a cop,” said Prasath Indralingam, 16.