S+L logo

When Catholic education meets urban realities

June 4, 2009
What sort of teenagers get involved in gangs? And what does a gang-plagued community look like? Before I began researching the issue for the S+L documentary Changing Course, my mind would conjure the usual stereotype of disaffected thugs congregating near austere social housing complexes. The most troubling aspect of this popular image of street life, perpetuated nightly on the local news, is how these individuals and communities are dehumanized. Most of us cannot relate to the dangerous gang lifestyle…and we’re comforted by this distance.
Don’t get too comfortable, warns Michael Tagliaferri, former principal of Guardian Angels elementary in Brampton (now at St. Simon Stock in Mississauga).
“Gangs are nothing more than young people coming together to fill a need that isn’t being met by the community as a whole,” he explained in an interview for Changing Course. Indeed, the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board targeted Guardian Angels for new gang and bullying prevention initiatives not because the neighbourhood is socio-economically challenged. Rather, the pristine new school is surrounded by rows of gleaming new townhouses. New big-box complexes continue to pop up along the busy thoroughfares.
“You have a community here that, in the last four or five years, has probably doubled,” Tagliaferri explains, and the negative side of this growth was how quickly community services became insufficient. Combined with the lack of parental supervision for many kids returning home each day, it’s left to the schools to provide positive after-school activities.
These extracurricular programs were just one aspect of a comprehensive anti-gang and anti-bullying strategy employed at Guardian Angels and five other Greater Toronto Area schools. We followed their progress for one school year, resulting in Changing Course. When the bell finally rings for summer vacation, we’re left with a vivid impression of what happens when Catholic education meets urban realities.
Changing Course: A Catholic project for city schools airs on S+L this Sunday night at 9 pm. See encore presentations Monday at 1:30 pm, Wednesday at 8 pm, and next Thursday at 12 am & 12:30 pm (all times ET). Learn more about S+L's latest documentary HERE.

Related posts

Why does a Toronto church have a heart in its wall? Read about this and other great stories from this week's news on Noel Ocol's Weekly News Round-Up. ...read more
"We all are in this boat together" : A Reflection on the Current Crisis in the Church
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., reflects on the current crisis in the Church, the Vatican's response, and how we can learn from this in the future. ...read more
Read all about the famous shrine at Knock, Ireland, which Pope Francis will visit on Sunday, August 26th, during his trip to the World Meeting of Families. ...read more
For Cindy Wooden, a distinguished Vatican journalist, Pope Francis is a dream and a nightmare. Watch this #TFImoment to find out why! ...read more
Health Food for the Soul
"You are what you eat." Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, reflects on the meaning of Jesus' command to eat his flesh and drink his blood. ...read more
President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Announces Effort That Will Involve Laity, Experts, and the Vatican as U.S. Bishops Resolve to Address “Moral Catastrophe”
Read the full text of a statement from the president of the USCCB regarding the current "moral catastrophe" in the Catholic Church. ...read more
Vatican responds to Pennsylvania Grand Jury abuse report
On Thursday evening, the Director of the Holy See Press Office issued the following statement regarding the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury. ...read more