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Premier Mcguinty Names Mike 'Pinball' Clemons To Chair Youth Challenge Fund

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Premier Mcguinty Names Mike 'Pinball' Clemons To Chair Youth Challenge Fund

Next Step In Government's Plan To Prevent Violence, Provide Opportunity

Office of the Premier

The Ontario government is giving young people more opportunities to succeed with a new fund designed to offer kids positive alternatives to guns and gangs in their communities, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced today.

"I believe that if we give our young people the right opportunities, they will make the right choices," said Premier McGuinty. "This fund is about creating opportunity and community safety, from the ground up, by providing local support for youth where it matters most, in our neighbourhoods."

Speaking to students, parents and community groups at Jenner Jean-Marie Community Centre in Toronto, Premier McGuinty introduced a new $15-million challenge fund that will sponsor local programs, training and jobs for at-risk youth. Building on the government's previous work with community groups, the fund will support ideas for communities that come directly from people living in the neighbourhood.

The fund will target 13 Toronto neighbourhoods that most urgently need help. Community organizations will be able to apply to the fund to cover the costs of new or existing local programs to help keep kids off the streets.

The Premier challenged the private sector and private contributors to match the government's $15-million investment. The government will then match private sector contributions up to an additional $15 million, for a potential total investment of over $45 million over the next three years.

Toronto Argonauts Head Coach Mike "Pinball" Clemons will chair the fund. A board of directors, working with the United Way of Greater Toronto, will oversee the fund and choose the programs that will receive funding.

"I have won a few awards in my life, but life's greatest honour is to serve others. Accordingly, this may very well be the greatest honour I've received since becoming a husband and a dad," Clemons said. "To be entrusted with serving the leaders of Toronto communities to develop a comprehensive plan, which undoubtedly illustrates the significance of every young person, is a tall task for such a short man. However, I am not intimidated because I know where I stand."

"I am standing with a city geographically located at ground level, but which is philanthropically celestial -- a city that stands for people, equality and opportunity. So let's stand together to ensure that an ethos of empowerment exists in every neighbourhood of Toronto."

Minister of Children and Youth Services Mary Anne Chambers and Frances Lankin, President and CEO of the United Way of Greater Toronto, also joined the Premier for today's announcement.

"Through this fund, we're giving young people access to more opportunities so they can make positive choices in their lives," said Chambers. "Strengthening opportunities for at-risk youth is part of our government's plan to achieve the best possible results for all our children and youth."

"At the United Way, we've always worked hard to engage young people in our communities," said Lankin. "The government's new challenge fund will help bring opportunities to life for young people so they can take advantage of badly needed opportunity, participate actively in our communities and build hope for the future."

The challenge fund builds on some of the excellent work already being done to help keep kids safe and prevent them from making the wrong choices, including hiring 800 student success teachers to help struggling students, introducing legislation to keep kids learning to age 18 and expanding schools for community use. It also adds to a $51-million package to give police and prosecutors more tools to work with neighbourhoods in the fight against guns and gangs.

"Today's announcement is a significant step forward on prevention, but it is only one of a number of steps we are taking," said Premier McGuinty. "There will be more to come in the weeks and months ahead."

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