Temple University Police Department joined Tour de Shore’s Children Foundation to bridge the gap between police officers and children in the Philadelphia area by teaching courses in subjects like carpentry, reading, music and chess.
Tour de Shore’s Police Youth Alliance program sends Philadelphia Police officers into classrooms of local Philadelphia Independence Mission schools like St. Martin de Porres Catholic School, St. Barnabas Catholic School and St. Francis Cabrini Regional Catholic School. The program launched in 2015 and currently serves 12 schools with 22 programs.
“This will help break down those negative barriers that unfortunately some children will have about police officers,” said Monica Hankins-Padilla, TUPD’s external relations coordinator.
The Alliance program places officers into classrooms where, with the aid of a teacher from the school, they can assist in teaching extracurricular activities, like chess and woodworking.
Sister Owen Patricia Bonner, principal of Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Ignatius of Loyola, is excited about the program’s potential for her students.
“We don’t want students to be afraid of officers, we want them to see them as people that they can go to for help and assistance and support,” Bonner said. “We thought one way would surely be to have a bigger presence of police in our school and not for crimes or difficulties, but for just for companionship and activities.”
The officers placed in Bonner’s school are taking a step further to interact with children outside of the classroom.
TUPD officers accompanied students on a class trip to see “Black Panther.” When the school had a Christmas concert, several officers attended, despite it not being required for their position, Bonner said.
“The gap sometimes is not so much with the students, sometimes it’s with the police officers,” Hankins-Padilla said.
She added the program also benefits the officers by teaching them how to gain confidence from the students.
The Police Youth Alliance is one of the three programs offered by the Tour de Shore Children’s Foundation.
Tour de Shore’s primary program is its annual 65-mile bike race, which begins in Philadelphia and ends in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Proceeds from the race go to the Tour de Shore Children’s Foundation, which provides funds for local children’s charities and assists families of fallen first responders.
“If you don’t have any interactions with cops, and all you see is what you hear on the news and you see it’s all negative, then most of your association with cops is going to be bad and negative”, said Dominic Malandro, a 29-year-old videographer who lives near the corner of 11th and Green streets, and whose early education also took place in Philadelphia. “I think it’s a good thing to at least rebuild some sort of positive association with police officers.”
Schools, like Our Mother of Sorrows, plan to continue their association with the Police Youth Alliance program, continuing to increase the variety of courses offered to students.
“I hope it continues,” Bonner said. “I would love to see it expand.”