Ary Azez tells the crowd how the YoBro program changed his life for the better. Azez will lead the expansion of the anti-gang program into Surrey’s elementary schools. (Photo submitted)

Anti-gang program expanding to Surrey elementary schools

Surrey expands early intervention support for youth through YoBro YoGirl program

SURREY – A program that aims to keep children out of the gang lifestyle will be expanding into Surrey’s elementary and secondary schools.

The City of Surrey, Surrey School District and YoBro YoGirl made the announcement Saturday, during a city-hosted Public Safety Town Centre event at South Surrey rec centre.

The YoBro YoGirl initiative helps “deliver education, early intervention and physical training” to kids.

The city says through the expansion of this existing partnership, more children will have access to recreation programs and education about the risks of drugs, gangs and other negative lifestyle choices.

A former member of the program, Ary Azez, shared how the initiative changed his life.

As a teenager in the 10th grade, Ary Azez saw many of his friends going down the path of drugs and gangs, which he knew he didn’t want any part of.

Azez went from being a participant in the program to becoming its current Program Facilitator. He is now in his second year of University studying engineering.

“When I got in involved in Yo Bro | Yo Girl it really struck a chord with me, and I saw how I could channel my energy into something more positive” said Azez. “I finally found out how I could surround myself with good influences and to move positively forward.”

Azez, who currently works out of the Newton rec centre, will be leading the expansion of the program into Surrey elementary schools. He will be responsible for the “new era” of the program, hoped to reach more kids at earlier stages in life.

Mayor Linda Hepner said programs like Yo Bro | Yo Girl “can be the catalyst for kids to find a whole new path and that is central to our new approach under the Public Safety Strategy” and that “early intervention and strong partnerships with the School District and support providers are cornerstones of our Strategy, that’s why we are committed to enhancing this worthwhile initiative.”

Surrey school trustee Laurae McNally said “providing a positive outlet for kids is vital, no matter what their challenges might be.

“We are delighted to support the Yo Bro | Yo Girl program under the City’s Public Safety Strategy as we see first-hand the need for these kinds of programs to help kids like Ary,” added McNally.

The announcement was held at the Public Safety Town Centre event at the South Surrey Recreation and Arts Centre. Upcoming events will be held in Cloverdale and Newton. For a full list of event locations and more details, residents can visit surrey.ca.

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