Jerry Gunadasa, Surrey Crime Prevention’s At Risk Youth Mentor – By Ray Hudson

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A proud moment for Jerry Gunadasa as he accepts the 25 Under 25 Award. Photo: Ray Hudson

By Ray Hudson

Also for this 25 Under 25 Award Winner: It’s About Service

A proud moment for Jerry Gunadasa as he accepts the 25 Under 25 Award. Photo: Ray Hudson
A proud moment for Jerry Gunadasa as he accepts the 25 Under 25 Award. Photo: Ray Hudson

In a world where good news seldom gets as much attention as the bad news stories, came an event that ups the positivity quotient for the young people who are the future of our community. Last week’s celebration of Surrey’s 25 Under 25 by the Surrey Board of Trade, shone a spotlight on Surrey’s young achievers making a difference.

Jerry Gunadasa, one of the award winners is a young man who has his focus on becoming a police officer, and has chosen volunteering with the Surrey Crime Prevention Society as a Mentor for At Risk Youth as a stepping stone to that dream.  We spoke this week as he had finished working one job, and preparing to depart for a second.

Jerry graduated from Fleetwood Park secondary, enrolled in Sciences at UBC, but after a year and a half he realized this was not where his heart was.  Back to school, this time at the Justice Institute of BC, in the Law Enforcement Studies Program, he knew he’d found what he was looking for.  He excelled at everything while he was there and graduated with a 4.0 GPA.

Gunadasa:  “At UBC I was unfocused and not doing too well,” Jerry admitted. “But once I got into law enforcement related studies it was totally different. Throughout my time at JIBC I immersed myself in all their different programs like Police Judo, and many volunteer programs. Eventually I get the Canadian Western Bank award for my community service.”
Jerry holds down two jobs currently, however his main work is in the Rehab and Recovery program of Coastal Mental Health at the former Riverview facility, and at the Forensic Psychiatric Cottages.

Hudson:  How do you find the time to be part of the Surrey Crime Prevention programs and what drew you to the SCPS?
Gunadasa: Before SCPS I was a volunteer basketball coach for the YMCA, but I wanted to get some experience in policing related activities, and volunteer in the Fleetwood community where I currently live.
I got the information about Surrey Crime Prevention from my sister, and signed on. I’m enjoying it.  I’ve been participating in three programs so far: Citizen’s Community Safety Watch, The Youth Leadership and Mentorship Program and the Community Safety Foot Tour Program in Fleetwood. I usually participate in the Foot Tour on Fridays. We volunteers partner up, and dressed in our SCP Green Vests, go out in the Fleetwood community to observe and report any suspicious activity to the emergency services. We’re helping the community stay safe.
The same thing goes for the Citizen’s Community Safety Watch but it’s done from vehicles instead of on foot. Once or twice a month we spend 6 to 8 hours again, observing and reporting any suspicious activities.
As to the Mentorship program, I took that on last year and the mentee I was assigned to work with has done so well.  At the start, he was still in high school, and was just like me, not doing so well, not interested in much.  From my own experience I gave him everything I could to get him on the right track. I guess it worked because he’s pursuing a career in law enforcement.  I think it was my excitement about policing that got him interested in it.
Because immersed himself in changing his life I was able to help him get into the RCMP Youth Academy, and now, he just got accepted in the New Westminster Police Academy.

Jerry Gundadasa shares a light moment with colleagues. Photo: submitted.
Jerry Gundadasa shares a light moment with colleagues. Photo: submitted.

Hudson: Was he having some issues when he came to you?
Gunadasa:  He has a history, which I’m obviously not able to talk about, but was definitely a youth at risk in Surrey, and was assigned to me to mentor. He has done very well.

Hudson: What does that do for you?
Gunadasa: It’s like having a little brother I can take care of and show him the ropes through my experience.  I’ve obviously made some mistakes in my life and I just want to make sure that he doesn’t make the same mistakes I made. I’m so happy he’s changed his lifestyle, the friends he’s hanging out with and his involvement in the community. It’s awesome to see.

Hudson: Have you got another mentee now?
Gunadasa: No, he’s still under nineteen and he doesn’t want to leave me.  He actually wants to stay in the program because he enjoys coming out with me to experience different things.

Hudson: What were your thoughts when you found out you’d won a 25 Under 25 award?
Gunadasa:  It was a shock. I don’t seek recognition but it was really nice to have that, and my family is really proud of that. I was happy about that, but I’m so busy it’s really hard to take it all in. My next interest is getting into the next thing and helping, and ultimately getting into policing.

Hudson: Are you going to put on blue serge or red serge?
Gunadasa:  I’m not too sure.  I would like to stay in BC, particularly Surrey, but I wouldn’t mind being part of one of the municipal forces, VPD or Delta. It doesn’t really matter as long as I’m policing.

Hudson: What is the next step for you?
Gunadasa: I’ve done everything I’ve needed to do. I’m going to Sri Lanka in July so I guess the next step on my return is to apply.

Hudson: I think everyone tends to look at the generations younger then themselves with  some concern.  How do you view your generation?
Gunadasa: I think there are a lot of like-minded people who are just as great as the people who won the 25 Under 25 award, and even for the people who are considered Youth at Risk. I think there’s room for change.  I see that especially working at the recovery and rehab programs.  People get the notion that they just have these mental illnesses and don’t have the ability to change.  They’re young just like me but seeing their progress day in and day out it makes me happy.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this generation.
Gunadasa: so I plan on applying right after I get back.