The provincial government is investing over one million dollars in education services this year to help keep teenage boys away from crime and gang activity.

The new program, ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education) is a school-based gang prevention strategy that will be implemented at schools in 12 BC communities, including Victoria and Nanaimo.

ERASE hopes to provide boys aged 12 – 19 with alternatives to crime, like after-school programs, new local elective courses, and mentorship programs that encourage leadership and offer career development opportunities.

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“If boys do not understand and value themselves and their human potential, and make enduring connections with positive adult male mentors and role models within their primary spheres of influence — family, school, extracurricular — they will seek connection elsewhere,” said Walter Mustapich, president and co-founder of Boys Club Network in a statement.

“All adolescent boys, not just boys conventionally identified as being at-risk through social or economic circumstance, benefit demonstrably from the consistent fortification of mentorship, moral courage and authentic hope offered in our after-school clubs and local curriculum. We are by no means the only solution, rather just one arrow in the quiver of targeted programs.”

The Boys Club Network is a privately funded BC charity run by secondary school administrators, teachers, counsellors, and youth and wellness workers.

It offers a variety of programs and services for young boys and men aged 12-18 across 12 school districts in the province.

Support for parents and teachers

Besides creating more resources for students, ERASE will also offer gang prevention and awareness training sessions to 1,500 parents and 2,500 educators, law enforcement officials, and representatives of community-based organizations.

These comprehensive sessions will provide an overview of the current gang landscape, how gang members recruit, the myths and realities of membership in a gang, and how to help those who are being recruited or are already involved in gang-related activity.

The program will also cover topics such as mental health and wellness, substance use, social media, and sexual orientation and gender identity education.

“Ending the gun and gang violence that’s taking young lives and threatening our communities will continue to require strong, strategic prevention and enforcement efforts,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

“Early intervention and prevention programs like ERASE are vital to ensuring our young people are both knowledgeable and resilient to the lure of gangs and gang violence — helping them make their own positive life choices.”

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