The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is committed to turning creative ideas into actions. We are using new approaches to help solve complex policing challenges which also promote open communication, respect, and collaboration between all impacted stakeholders. This involves a basic change – a paradigm shift – as we move from more reactive policing practices towards proactive programming to strategically support youth, our communities and necessary system reform.
What is Project Sunset?
Project Sunset is about building sustainable community partnerships in order to identify innovative solutions that will proactively address root causes of youth crime, social disorder and crisis.
Project Sunset Description
Project Sunset embeds a strength based experiential learning model called Project Venture (PV). PV is designed to engage youth and aims to prevent substance misuse and related problems through:
- Classroom-based problem-solving activities
- Outdoor experiential activities
- Adventure camps and treks
- Community-oriented service learning
Designed by the National Indian Youth Leadership Project, the PV curriculum relies on traditional values to help youth develop positive self-concept, effective social interaction skills, a community service ethic, internal locus of control, and increased safe decision making and problem-solving skills. PV uses an indirect, youth development approach to prevent substance misuse and related problems. In keeping with traditional values, Project personnel engage youth in positive, alternative-based activities, including hiking, camping, rock climbing and rappelling, water sports, and community service learning projects, avoiding any stigma associated with substance abuse programs. PV is marketed to youth as a fun, positive, challenging program with no mention of substance abuse. Parental involvement is an adjunct strategy and parents are encouraged to attend all community based sessions.
Interventions By Domain
PV classroom curricula aligns with the Ontario Government’s elementary school curriculum standards and is approved by partnering school boards. Activities are designed to motivate pro-health decisions and skill use; community services; culturally appropriate activities; curricula incorporating cultural heritage lessons along with culturally appropriate activities: life/social skills training.
Classroom-based skills develop; life skills training with role-play.
Alternative/recreational activities; involving youth in alternative/recreational activities.
Mentoring combined with community service and education; multi-agency activities and collaboration.
Key Program Approaches/Components
The PV model has been in effect since 1990 with over 3,000 youth reached across North America. PV has been replicated in communities across the USA, Canada and other parts of the world. From 1995 to 1998, PV participated in CSAP sponsored National Cross-Site Evaluation of High Risk Youth Program and has received recognition as a model program by the US Departments of Health and Human Services/Department of Justice.
PV includes alternative-to-substance-misuse activities in its community-based activities. While these activities may appear to be merely recreational (for example, hiking, bicycling, camping, etc.), they are designed to challenge participants to develop positive problem-solving skills, self-concept as a capable young person, and effective social interaction skills, skills that will combat substance misuse or other risky behaviours.
The out-of-school/community based component includes more active adventure-based experiential learning activities designed to challenge youth to develop skills and competencies that support a positive sense of self and of one’s place in community and responsibility toward others.
Part of the community-based component includes the planning and implementation of a number of community service learning projects in order to develop service learning qualities and an ethic of service. Projects progress through a continuum, from simple adult-planned projects such as trash pick ups and visits to senior centres to complex youth-planned activities such as weekly visits to a free meals kitchen to plan menus, deliver services, and interact with the regular clients. Sunset has conducted a needs assessment through Affinity Exercises which have been followed by planning and conducting community service activities such as school beautification. (read more in our ‘stories’ section).
The PV program relies on Venture’s traditional Indigenous values to help youth develop. The values are cross cultural and are designed to be flexible to meet the needs of local audiences. The program helps youth understanding teachings including wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth when interacting with their classmates, school community, family and larger community.
PV includes an in-school component of 26 weekly sessions spread through the school year. These include carefully constructed games and initiatives that start with socialization activities, progress to trust and team-building, and on to more complex problem solving. This component also includes community service projects and a week-long camp (or cumulative event to test learned skills), and other extended wilderness treks.
PEER LEADERSHIP, COUNSELLING OR SUPPORT
PV identifies older youth (including graduates of Sunset) to serve as service staff to assist with younger youth participants. Youth participants are encouraged to evolve into Project Sunset service providers.
PV was developed and is run by the National Indian Youth Leadership Project, a community-based organization that has demonstrated the importance of collaboration. Sunset programming had established a framework to ensure communities work together to ensure barriers are removed and access is provided to youth to participate in opportunities that might be otherwise remain unavailable to them.
PV is aimed at developing personal skills such as internal locus of control, decision-making/problem solving, and judgement. It is also aimed at the development of interpersonal skills such as teamwork, cooperation, respect, and trust. The result has seen an increased development of coping skills and resiliency.
How the Project Works
Typically, PV consists of about 20 hourly sessions delivered during the school day over the course of a school year, during which youth engaged in experiential games and initiatives facilitated by a Project Sunset trained facilitator. Classroom teachers and community stakeholders are encouraged to engage in activities as participants.
Through these classroom-based sessions, youth are then invited and enrolled to participate in the community-based activities that include increasingly challenging outdoor experiential activities such as team and trust-building, hiking, bicycling, climbing, and rappelling. These activities are designed to be more than merely recreational, as Project staff work with youth to plan, implement, and debrief in specific ways that use the experiences as life metaphors.
The community-based component also includes four service-learning projects per year designed to facilitate leadership. School vacations and summer breaks include an opportunity for Project Sunset team members to provide week-long camp/retreats and/or wilderness treks for participants. Sunset is working towards engaging older high school students, including Project Sunset graduates, to be trained as service staff to provide year-round older peer role models with the community-based components. Approximately 150 hours of community-based activities are provided throughout the year.
In addition, four potluck dinners or other family/community events such as ‘family fun days’ or ‘community feasts’ are conducted throughout the year. PV youth facilitate a portion of the activities, providing opportunities for parents to see their children as capable and skilled.
PV is a relatively complex model. Therefore, preparation and resources alignment is required of the replication site prior to delivery in order to ensure fidelity and success of the PV model. The OPP as the lead agency maintains a close relationship with the developer (NIYLP). Project Management establish community engagement and alignment of resources well before implementation phase. As well, OPP ensures continuing education opportunities for Project personnel with the in-kind support of community stakeholders. Project Sunset collaboration offers access to a significant network of local, regional, provincial and national stakeholders who have committed to providing in-kind support to leverage the success of personnel and Project outcomes. In exchange, stakeholders are sharing information, lessons learned and best practices as all move forward towards sustainability.
The National Study of High Risk Youth (Sambrano & Springer, SAMHSA/CSAP, 2002) found PV participants had significantly reduced:
- Lifetime tobacco use
- Frequency of tobacco use
- Frequency of inhalant use
- Lifetime alcohol use
Subsequent studies demonstrate, composed to control group, consistent program imipact on delaying onset of and/or reducing current use of alcohol, marihuana, tobacco, and other drugs, including:
- Reductions in past 30-day alcohol and illegal drug use
REDUCTIONS IN NEGATIVE ATTITUDES/BEHAVIOURS
- Decreased depression
- Decreased aggressive behaviour
IMPROVEMENTS IN POSITIVE ATTITUDES/BEHAVIOURS
- Improved internal locus of control
- Increased resiliency
- Improved school attendance
OTHER TYPES OF OUTCOMES
- Reductions in peer drug use
Project Sunset Early Stages
In 2014, the OPP secured a five-year funding commitment through the Northern and Aboriginal Crime Prevention Fund. Now Project Sunset is piloting this ground breaking initiative within the communities served by Dryden Police, Treaty Three Police Service, as well as the OPP Detachments in Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout and Fort Frances. The uniqueness of Project Sunset is the fact that a policing agency is leading and coordinating the implementation of project deliverables.
The Project focuses on engaging students between grades five through eight at the Crossroads School, Evergreen School, New Prospect School and Sioux Mountain School sites. Project Sunset service providers are provided thanks to a partnership with the Rainy River District School Board and Seven Generations Education Institute.
Why Do We Need Project Sunset?
The OPP is committed to take action to address complex community safety issues. As well, the OPP acknowledges the over-representation of Indigenous people in custody and the justice system, in particular, Indigenous youth. Since 2014, Project Sunset has deliberately and thoughtfully worked to implement impactful and sustainable action that will empower youth to overcome challenges they face while inspiring positive change. Project Sunset offers police as community stakeholders with an opportunity to renew or establish relationships with youth, their families and communities based on principles of mutual recognition and respect. Project Sunset was designed to get police and other community stakeholders actively involved in their communities and develop relationships. Strong relationships offer opportunity to listen to the needs of youth and families in order to build an bridge of understanding to the barriers impacting success. Programming helps empower youth will the skills need to overcome challenges while celebrating identity, culture and local traditions. The results are encouraging as youth are demonstrating they are developing a sense of hope, purpose and well-being.
Unexpectedly, Project Sunset is turning out to be just as meaningful for adults as it is for the youth participants! Stakeholders, including police officers, are aligning interests to activities which offer opportunities to transfer knowledge and skills to the youth. Youth appreciate mentoring and feel a sense of accomplish when they meet their goals safely and access networks of community support.
What does Project Sunset offer YOU?
Project Sunset empowers YOU with an opportunity to:
- Help children believe in themselves so they feel they are in control over what happens in their lives
- Be a positive influence of change through your support and encouragement
- Show people there are healthy alternatives
- Help young people realize their full potential and that their life has purpose
- Help communities get involved and actively demonstrate they value youth
- Make a difference in a child’s life
“The Project helps youth lead themselves and others through and beyond the pitfalls of adolescence, to long, constructive, fulfilling, and culturally meaningful lives”, Sgt. Chris Amell, OPP – Project Journey.
For more information about Project Sunset, please contact OPP Special Projects Coordinator – Sgt. Anne McCoy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (807)271-2526.