If there’s one thing Ontario’s newish Conservative government is consistent on, it’s showing this province what doesn’t matter to them. They started with education, then the environment, then financial security for the most vulnerable in our population. This week they’ve shown us something else that doesn’t matter: saving at-risk youth.
On Friday Sistema Toronto, a not-for-profit organization that provides music education for at-risk youth announced that the Government of Ontario would be rescinding $500,000 in funding to the program. Sistema was promised this funding back in May 2018, and the blow comes just a few short weeks before the school year is set to begin.
Sistema Toronto is an after-school music education and social development program for at-risk children. The program provides free daily musical and intellectual opportunities to 275 students and their families in the Toronto neighborhoods with the highest child poverty rates – Parkdale, Jane-Finch, and East Scarborough.
Christie Gray, Sistema’s Executive Director, calls this loss of funding “devastating.” Their slashed budget means that Sistema will be forced to cut current teachers and support staff, that new instruments won’t be acquired for existing students, and fewer kids and their families will be able to access its programs. Says Gray, “We believe that programs like ours help kids break the cycle of poverty and violence, and give at-risk children and youth opportunities to achieve their potential in ways that are otherwise not accessible to them.”
It’s not that Sistema’s work isn’t effective; students who take part in their programs are 25% more likely to achieve high scores on standardized testing than students not in the program. By giving them the tools they need to succeed in our education system, these children, and our communities will experience a reduction in poverty and violence. When youth thrive, so do the communities in which they live. But without the support that organizations like Sistema provides, these children become vulnerable yet again to the cycle of violence that exists in our struggling communities.
As the parent of an 11-year-old Sistema student stated: “I need Kiara to be in Sistema and working on her viola. Her friends are already joining up with gangs and asking her to go with them. I need her with you so she has a chance for an education and a future”.
In order to try and make up some of the shortfall from this loss of funding, Sistema has set up a fundraising page on their website. “We’re calling it #wegotthis and turning to the community to help us keep things going despite this major setback,” said Managing Director Hilary Johnston.
Join us in supporting Sistema Toronto raise the money they need to help keep our city and its children safe. Say yes to supporting our communities and the arts. Lend your support to Sistema Toronto and show them that #wegotthis.