Police department reaches out to youth

caines | 5/30/2013, 5:30 a.m.

[gallery link="file" columns="4" orderby="title"] When a police officer pulls up in front of a school, it has a whole new meaning now, it means a big brother or a big sister has arrived, according to Gale S. Nelson, vice president of programs, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami. On May 16, a group of Miami-Dade Police Department officers were partnered with eight excited students from Lorah Park Elementary. This year, 62 elementary students were partnered with law enforcement officers as a part of the Bigs in Blue program of Big Brothers Big Sisters. The officers who are a part of the program are from a number of local departments, such as Miami Gardens, Miami, North Miami and Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The officers made a commitment to mentor the students at their schools for once a week for 12 months, with the option of working with students up until their high school graduation. The different schools were selected based on the proximity to the police station and also because they were schools that they felt they would have the greatest impact on. The students were referred by the schools administration and faculty. I told him hes going to be the smartest kid in his classes. Hes going to learn a lot, Sgt. Frederick Washington of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said about his newly-named little brother, DeAngelo, a first-grader. From the first gathering, Washington said Thompson seemed to be very bright, energetic, and willing to learn new things. Lt. Samuel Bronson said he plans on discussing the wonderful things about life with his little brother, Justin Anthony, a third grader. During their first meeting, they discussed the importance of honesty. Were going to be honest with one another. Thats the foundation, he said. Another partnership was that of Officer Utavia Reeves-Jenkins and Skimonee, a first grader. Reeves-Jenkins said she plans on imparting knowledge to the student. She is used to working with teenagers and knows that it will be different working with a 6-year-old, she said smiling. Other Big Brother Big Sister partnerships were : Lt. Adrian Cummings and third-grader Jarraid; Officer Latonya Graham and third-grader Tyveria; Sgt. Orlando Reyes and Jakari and Lt. Zach Larson and a student named Jacob. Jamal King, the school counselor at Lorah Park, said he thinks the program will be very effective and it will help with student attitudes, self-esteem, behavior and overall character. He also believes it will positively effect the behavior of the students who may not work with the officers, but will get to see them interacting with the involved students at school. He said the kids were ecstatic to be partnered with the law enforcement officers. They were just like kids on Christmas day, he said. [The program] gives us the opportunity to partner with the community and bridge the gap with it, King said. By Malika A. Wrightmwright@miamitimesonline.com