Mississauga announced May 17 that the city received its HIGH FIVE Accreditation from Parks and Recreation Ontario. In doing so, Mississauga is the largest municipality in Canada to receive this designation.

“This Accreditation validates our efforts and showcases our strength and commitment to providing the best possible experiences for children participating in our programs while promoting healthy child development,” said Shari Lichterman, Director, Recreation.

Parks and Recreation Ontario (PRO) is an organization committed to developing healthy lifestyles, vibrant communities, and sustainable environments. HIGH FIVE had its start in 1994 when PRO decided that there should be a set of standards that organizations could use to ensure children are safe, happy and getting maximum benefit from recreation and sports activities. This stemmed from numerous studies showing the positive long-term effects of children’s experiences in these activities. Added confidence, intent to remain physically active throughout life and an increased commitment to the community are just some of these desired outcomes.

Displaying the HIGH FIVE logo symbolizes an organization’s commitment to children. The five stars of the logo represent the five principles or standards which lay the foundation for the program: involvement of a caring adult or staff member, the opportunity to make friends, the opportunity to play, the opportunity to master skills, and the opportunity to participate. Studies show that when all of these standards are met, the program will contribute to healthy child development.

Programs are required to utilize three basic design guidelines in meeting the five standards: programs must be welcoming of diversity and uniqueness, they must be safe, and must also be developmentally appropriate.

The HIGH FIVE program has been proven to be extremely effective. Surveys completed by certified HIGH FIVE organizations reveal that 78 per cent of them reported that the program had improved the experiences of children in their programs either somewhat or a great deal. Evidence of this success includes fewer behavioral problems/incidents and positive feedback from both parents and staff.

Obtaining the HIGH FIVE Accreditation for Mississauga was an involved process. The city provided training to 1,800 front line program instructors and 50 management staff in the principles of healthy child development, assessed approximately 2,000 city programs over a 24-month period, and enhanced and developed processes, procedures and policies about healthy child development.

With the HIGH FIVE Accreditation in place, the city is now working toward receiving the Age-Friendly Community Status, which designs policies, services, and structures to help seniors live safely, enjoy good health and stay involved in the community.

Photo: Bonnie Crombie, Mayor of Mississauga holding HIGH FIVE Accreditation certificate (centre), Shari Lichterman, Director, Recreation (left), and city staff at May 17 announcement.