Columbus police work with youth in new sports program

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The Columbus PAL program is an opportunity for law enforcement to strengthen their relationships with Columbus youth and families, Mayor Andrew Ginther said.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus Parks and Recreation Department and the Columbus Police Division are teaming up to offer officer-led programs for youth in communities across the city starting in December.

The new partnership, announced Thursday by Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, will create new organized sports and other programs for people ages 6 to 18.

The Columbus PAL program is an opportunity for law enforcement officers to strengthen their relationships with youth and families in Columbus.

“By serving as mentors, coaches, advocates and role models, our officers will connect with the community on a more personal level – building the kind of trust, understanding and support that lasts a lifetime,” said Ginther.

Basketball will be offered through Columbus PAL at the end of the year. The program will eventually expand to baseball, boxing, cheerleading, gymnastics, softball, soccer and summer camps.

The programs will initially be offered in five community centres: Douglas, Adams, Marion Franklin, Sullivant Gardens and Blackburn.

All officers who volunteer will complete a specific training course, which includes Columbus Recreation and Parks’ youth sports philosophy, a sports-specific curriculum, understanding the youth of our community, social-emotional learning and modeling and teaching empathy, according to a press release.

Members of the public are also welcome to take the training and volunteer.

“Getting to know our community is an important part of our job because it allows us to better understand it and better serve it,” said First Deputy Chief of Police LaShanna Potts. “We are all invested in bettering our community, and Columbus PAL provides us with a way to create a safe and fun environment for our young people.”

According to the Columbus PAL website, the program helps:

  • Foster positive interactions between officers and youth.
  • Facilitate a safe and fun environment for youth at recreational and sporting events.
  • Provide education, mentorship, life skills and leadership development.

The program also envisions other future sports and programs, such as lacrosse, cricket, pickleball and tennis.

“We are thrilled to launch this initiative with the Columbus Police Division and have these officers take the time to invest in the lives of our students,” said Charnon Barnes, Recreation Administrative Manager for Sports for youth from Columbus Recreation and Parks. “Columbus PAL will provide a safe environment where our students can have fun while developing life skills that go beyond sport.”

Anyone interested in applying to volunteer is asked to complete the Columbus PAL Interest Form.

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