Do Not cut the Overnight Ontario Ranger Program
The Ontario Ranger Program (used to be known as the Junior Ranger Program) was founded in 1944 and gave youth an unique job experience like no other. On September 27th 2012, the Ministry of Natural Resources called one of my supervisors informing her the government is no longer continuing the Overnight Ontario Ranger Program.
The Ontario Ranger Program takes youth out of their comfort zones by taking youth from the south and placing them in northern camps and vice versa. Then, 20 youth that have never met each other get put into one of the 13 camps (male or female) to spend the next 8 weeks working and building friendships that last a lifetime. The Ontario Ranger Program allows youth to grow personally and professionally as they build these friendships and learn new skills while on the job. Each year, the supervisors notice a huge change in the Rangers from picking them up at the airport, train station, etc, to the last goodbye at the end of the 8 weeks. Anyone who has experienced being in the Ranger Program, no explanation is needed, to those who haven't, no explanation is possible.
The Ontario Ranger Program also helps rural communities near the camps as the Ontario Rangers help with various work projects and these communities really appreciate the work the Ontario Rangers do for them. The youth that become Ontario Rangers build on their teamwork, leadership and everyday life skills all because they are now living away from home and with 20 or more individuals their own age.
The lifelong skills and friendships built during the Ontario Ranger Program, really help youth develop into mature, independent individuals, which is worth the money spent on the program. Also, a lot of interior park work done in major provincial parks such as Quetico, is done when Ontario Rangers go on overnight canoe trips.
It is understood that the MNR is planning on starting up a day program to replace what was the overnight Ontario Ranger Program but the two cannot compare at all. First the new program is a DAY program, so the work is based on where the applicant lives and if they live in Toronto for example, (6 rangers and one supervisor from my camp were from Toronto) there is not much work to do within natural resources. Whereas if the applicant traveled to a further area, they could get the experience with natural resources that they were searching for. Or, for those that live in very remote areas, there may not be a Ontario Stewardship Ranger team nearby. Second of all,the Ontario Ranger Program also prepares 17 year olds, who are going into grade 12, for living away from home with peers which they will be doing in post-secondary institutions. Finally, the new program has a team of 4 rangers and one "team-leader" or what would be the supervisor. The overnight program threw 22 youth that have never met each other before into a camp with 5 supervising staff members. This method encouraged more teamwork, bonding, trusting and leadership skills to build within the bigger camp setting that was together 24/7 than the 5 people that would be together only 7 hours for 5 days a week.
Low-income youth can benefit from going away for the summer since they couldn't afford to travel with their families. Those kids get sent to rangers isolated from their home situation, and exposed to the positive, team-building environment that is the Ontario Ranger Program. This program can also benefit high-risk youth in urban communities that have gotten in trouble with the law before. Since the Premier wants to put money towards helping said high-risk youth, there's a connection between the Ontario Ranger Program and helping high-risk youth in urban communities.
Out of the 900 applicants that apply each year only 200 get in and hundreds of others get placed on a waiting list. Out of the 200 rangers that went through the program, the vast majority will apply to be an assistant sub-supervisor the next year, which is a very competitive position. This cut will not only impact potential future applicants that wanted to be a part of this amazing program but all former rangers that were planning to apply as a supervisor and all the current supervisors that had job security, guaranteeing them a job for the summer. The program has successfully operated for 68 years with 80 000 alumni in total, Why should 2012 be the end for this amazing program?
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