PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In 2015, the Police Youth Alliance was formed as a way to give more than 5,000 students enrolled with the Independence Mission schools a place to learn past the final bell, but it’s also a way to build a better community.
“I hope that it evolves into a better relationship between the school and the police officers in their community,” says Sister Meaghan Patterson, principal at St. Matin’s de Porres School in North Philadelphia. “And so that the students can see that the police officers are just trying to do their job, and the police officers can see that the students and families are just trying do what’s best for them.”READ MORE: Stimulus Check Latest: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming?
An important but often overlooked part of a student’s growth is the after-school program, and with the help of the Irish Pub Foundation, students in Philly are seeing the benefit of them.
Officer Roger McFadden of the 2nd District loves chess and was happy to offer his services.
“We have several events a year. I meet with the children every week; we play chess, they have other programs in the schools like step and art. It’s really good, it’s really positive,” said McFadden.
The kids love Officer McFadden’s presence – and love it more when they win.
In addition to chess, Officer LaCamela Fortune aids the kids in their step program. She’s not much of a dancer, but she’s here to connect in any way she can.READ MORE: Mothers Who Lost Sons To Gun Violence Gather At Dell Music Center To Receive Potted Flower On Mother's Day
“They’re a great group of kids, and I’m just glad to be able to interact with them on a positive note rather than police work,” said Fortune.
With her help, the students are gaining confidence in their abilities.
“I think it’s fun and great,” says 8th grader Keyama Stoners. “A lot of hard work and dedication.”
Officer Janae McDonald gets choked up when talking about the program, knowing that she can be a positive influence on so many.
“It warms my heart,” says McDonald. “I enjoy coming here. This is my second year reading to the children and every week it’s my pleasure to do it.”MORE NEWS: Police: Teenager, 23-Year-Old Killed In Quintuple Shooting In Olney
She thinks the students are great – and the feeling is mutual.