Fayetteville Police Department launches summer mentoring program to keep children out of trouble

Monique John Image
Friday, July 21, 2023
Fayetteville Police Department launches summer mentoring program
The Fayetteville Police Department has joined forces with community leaders to launch a new summer program for children.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Parents and anti-violence advocates in Fayetteville say there aren't enough activities for young people in the summertime to keep them out of trouble. That's why the Fayetteville Police Department has joined forces with community leaders to launch a new summer program for children Friday.

The event series is called Fayetteville's Play Safe Space, and it's happening at the Smith Recreation Center on Slater Avenue. Kids will have the chance to play games, have dinner, and be mentored by officers and business owners in the neighborhood.

The program will be held every Friday night at the rec center until August 18. April Lewis told ABC11 she enrolled six of her children in the program. She says she's encouraged to see Fayetteville Police try something new to engage the people they're serving---especially young children like her boys, Jayion Boardley and Jamore Ellio.

"It keeps them out the street because usually, it's the weekend," Lewis said. "So, with them not being in school and it being a summer program, it helps them. It's keeping them focused. I mean, they're asking them different questions about school, what they like in school, how they're doing, their grades."

Boardley and Elliot said there were at a pilot event for the program last Friday; Boardley said he enjoyed playing board games with the officers.

"It was fun because she wasn't playing with me like a cop. She was playing with me as a friend," he said.

Elliot said he liked having so many activities to choose from:

"PS, Xbox, then we went to the gym, we played basketball, we got board games, chess, checkers, stuff like that," he said.

Fayetteville Police said the program is starting off with 25 children, but they hope to expand to 150. Officers say they want to enrich the lives of the children, and that they hope to learn from the children, too:

"When we did our camp last year, we actually learned, we asked them what their problems were and we actually assumed that it would be police brutality," said Lt. Michael Bohannon.

"That's what was going on on the news and we were prepared to talk about that. But actually, they brought up drug usage. The year before that it was actually human trafficking. And these are kids 11 to 18 years old that we don't think would even know about that and they've heard about that, and have concerns. And it kind of lets us know what we need to be doing."

Organizers said they hope the effort humanizes police officers for the kids, too:

"Positive mentors is what we're trying to get them in front primarily led by the police," said Nelson Soriano, the supervisor of the Smith Recreation Center. "(W)e want them to see that police are human beings before the lights get there."

There's still plenty of time for children and volunteers interested in mentoring through the program to sign up. Anyone interested should go to the Fayetteville Police Activity League Facebook page to learn more.