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Celebrating Guelph police VIPs

In this Helpers feature we join members of the Guelph Police Service and the Kiwanis Club as they celebrate the work of former VIP Officer Kyle Grant and welcome new VIP Officer Const. Brian Murphy

There was a changing of the guard of sorts Thursday as members of the Guelph Police Service and the Kiwanis Club of Guelph got together for lunch at Cutten Fields to thank outgoing VIP Officer Kyle Grant and welcome the new VIP Officer Const. Brian Murphy. 

“It was a wonderful experience,” said Grant who was joined at the event by his wife Lauren and their six-month-old daughter Ella. “The positivity of going into every school and seeing the kids’ faces light up. They were eager to learn and it was a really cool experience that way. I was lucky to be in the role for five years and do it on a daily basis.”  

The positivity of the experience was expressed by the new VIP officer Const. Brian Murphy as well.  

“We are basically teachers in the classroom but we are dressed up like police officers so we automatically garner their respect and attention,” said Murphy. “They are amazing. They are involved.  They participate. The positivity, is the main reason I do this.”

Murphy took over the position in January and that is why he was late for the lunch event Thursday at Cutten Fields. 

“I was just doing a presentation at Mitchell Woods Public School,” he said. “Fortunately, part of my presentation is a video so I put the video on and told the teacher I was out of there and here I am. A little late but I made it.”  

VIP is an acronym for Values, Influences and Peers and the goal is to educate students on the law and instill trust and respect between each other and police. 

Larry Townsend is a retired teacher and principal and the coordinator of the program for the Kiwanis Club, which has supported the program since its inception in 1986.

“It was a joint project of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of the Solicitor General,” said Townsend. “A former Kiwanian Bob Waddell was responsible for getting the program rolling in Guelph and he was honoured by the province for his contribution.”

Sgt. Jason Guardiero is the supervisor of the youth crime prevention unit at the GPS and he oversees their youth initiatives including the VIP Program.

“About 5,000 students participate in the VIP and VIP Plus program each year,” said Guardiero. “It’s comprised of 11 lessons for every Grade 6 student in the city of Guelph.

The police facilitate four lessons and the Grade 6 teachers facilitate the remaining seven lessons.”

Students are educated on a variety of topics including drug awareness, bullying, cyber-bullying and peer pressure.

“At the end of the year there is a VIP celebration,” said Guardiero. “It’s a program I was involved in when I was a youth so it is a program I recognize and remember.”

Grant remembered taking part in the program when he was young as well.  

“I grew up in Whitby and we had the VIP Program there and I definitely remember it,” said Grant. “It was just for Grade 6 and I think it is fun in Guelph that we expanded the program to cover Grades 7 and 8 for the VIP Plus courses. Over the course of three years from Grade 6 through 8 a student will see eight different police presentations.”  

Guelph Police Chief Gordon Cobey was at the lunch event Thursday to celebrate the value of the program and the work of his officers. 

“It gives us an excellent, early opportunity to engage with the young people in our community,” said Cobey. “I know Kyle spent a lot of time in our schools to deliver really important safety messages and education messages for our kids.”

Kiwanis supports the program in a number of ways including providing study materials. 

“After I would do a presentation the teacher would put aside time for the kids to use the work books provided by the Kiwanis Club of Guelph,” said Grant. “It’s an important investment because without those books there wouldn’t be a lot of opportunity to reinforce what the students learned from the presentation.” 

The VIP program not only helps educate kids about the law and the role of police in our community but has inspired some of them to be police themselves. 

“We’ve had a number of officers over the years and they have all been excellent,” said Townsend. “One of my former students from Waverly Drive is on the force now in Guelph.”