By Rachel Wion
Elementary students in selected Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) are preparing to adopt cops. Sounds backwards, doesn’t it? Usually adults adopt children. However, this new collaborative between the non-profit organization Adopt A Cop USA and Broward County Public Schools, will match students with the organization’s mentors in an effort to close the gap between law enforcement and the community. In this scenario, everyone wins!
“Mentoring can be very beneficial for the student and the mentor,” said Wanda Robinson, Mentor Program Specialist in the Broward County Public Schools Office of Equity and Academic Attainment. She will serve as the schools’ liaison to Adopt A Cop USA and assist in the program implementation, which will pair 4th grade students with police officer mentors.
The initiative will kick off with an open house in October hosted by the third partner in the group, the local chapter of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Wanda feels they are a natural partner because their after school programs offer community-based venues for mentoring.
“We have to provide an opportunity for students to interact positively with law enforcement in a safe environment. This effort will offer support and guidance to officers who are unfamiliar with the challenges faced by families in the communities in which they work,” she stressed.
The plan for Adopt A Cop USA to work primarily with 4th graders will hopefully prevent the problems that result when youth have negative perceptions and experiences with law enforcement. “If we can get those parties together early in the child’s life, we can avoid the barriers that lead to a breakdown in communication” Wanda explained. While all students can benefit from a positive mentoring relationship, this program will match mentors with students in schools serving low-income families in communities that are overrepresented by the problems of crime, poverty, unemployment and indifferent policing efforts.
BCPS has been recognized nat
ionally for its work in eliminating the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Pipeline that had resulted in large numbers of students being referred to law enforcement for minor incidents. This important collaborative between BCPS, Adopt and Cop USA and Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward will contribute significantly to the district’s diversion efforts.
A recent parent’s request for guidance on how best to interact with and support his son reinforced Wanda’s belief that an additional program benefit will be the establishment of a network of mentors that work together, and with the community, to better meet the needs of students and their families. By having everyone working toward a common goal, both will be stronger and more adept at handling challenges as they appear, and in many cases preventing those problems that result from a lack of understanding and communication.
The value of this initiative with Adopt A Cop USA mentors is obvious to Wanda because she understands the children’s needs. “I grew up in a neighborhood where I was not expected to succeed,” she explained. “But someone reached out to mentor me and changed my life so helping to implement this and other mentoring programs gives me an opportunity to pay it forward.”
Adopt A Cop USA is developing in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. AAC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that focuses on Bridging the Gap between Community and Law Enforcement, One Child at a Time. By pairing front line police officers to mentor at risk children, the organization supports the relationship between the two in a way unseen through any government programs. Adopt A Cop USA reduces community violence and helps law enforcement to be more productive and compassionate for generations to come. The organization operates solely on individual contributions and public support.
Please consider contributing to our efforts to create safer communities across the USA by visiting our website at www.adoptacopusa.org. Contact Sgt. Frank Danysh at 954-263-8270 or email email@example.com for more information.
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