Community Spirit--Police Athletic League - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

07/12/05

Community Spirit--Police Athletic League

They call it the Police Athletic League. It was a very successful program for many years and then lack of funding put them out of business. Now it's back and the officers who volunteer are already making a difference in many young lives.

Baseball is America's favorite pastime, and now thanks to the men in blue, youngsters are learning the basics. It's all part of the Police Athletic League. And it's just one of many lessons more than 100 boys and girls are learning.

"It's about growing up about becoming a man or a woman," said Lt. Andre Oliver of SCMPD. "It's about adult life. It's about learning about life. It's not just about sports. It's about academics. It's about going into the real world."

If you're wondering if it's sinking in, a few weeks ago the league held its annual all sports and academic banquet at the Savannah Civic Center where they honored 165 boys and girls between the ages of five and 12. It was a very proud night for the officers, the parents and the children, like two-time award winner Reginald Owens.

"I think it's the best," said he. "I have a lot of fun with the coaches. They teach us a lot."

Shawn Markham's son has done very well in the program. She believes the officers are changing these young lives.

"In a lot of our neighborhoods, there's lot of bad going on and that's when they usually get to see police," Markham said. "But he can see them off duty and interact and know that's not what they are all about."

"Most kids can only see you as a police officer riding a call and dealing with issues inside the house," said Lt. Oliver. "Now they see you as a coach as an individual. They can see you outside the uniform."

But most importantly, these officers and parents are seeing changes in these young people that'll make them good citizens and hopefully keep all of them on the right side of the law. That dedication is how they capture the WTOC Community Spirit.

All 165 students in the program passed all of their standardized tests and were promoted to the next grade.

Questions or comments concerning WTOC Community Spirit should be directed to Dawn Baker, dbaker@wtoc.com.

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