Making camp: Police program builds relationships with students
Members of the Palatka Police Department’s Police Athletic League are bursting with excitement in anticipation of the organization’s annual summer camp, which is slated to kick off next week,
The Monday through Friday camp begins at 7:30 a.m. Monday at C.L. Overturf Jr. Sixth Grade Center. It is open to students beginning in kindergarten through the 8th grade.
Activities include indoor and outdoor recreation, science, technology, engineering and math activities, along with fun and educational field trips outside of Putnam County. Through the camp, Police Chief Jason Shaw said, friendships can be formed and strengthened and memories made.
“Every year our camp is packed, and this year is no different,” said Capt. Tobby Williams, who helps organize the program.
Shaw said one of the most important aspects of the program is building relationships throughout the community. Not only do the youth in the program build relationships with each other, he said, but they build strong relationships with the law enforcement community.
“You have to continue to build relationships. It is an investment bank,” Shaw said.
“If they can see them doing positive activities like (this camp), they get to know them and see that they are human, and that helps build relationships.”
“You can probably see an officer or someone just kind of playing around, playing a game or doing something with the kids,” Williams said. “It continues to build that positive relationship between officers and not just the community, but the kids in our community.”
Williams said the program has partnered with various organizations throughout the community to add to the camp experience. Partnerships include working with the Putnam County Public Library System to offer STEM opportunities and teaming up with the Putnam County School District in its Summer Meals program.
“We are extremely excited that the program continues to build with partners every single year,” he said. “If you look at the heartbeat of PAL, that is what it is designed to do; to partner with different community partners to help them prosper, which they help us prosper.”
From seeing the excitement on the faces of the kids on the first day of camp to seeing the growth and maturity of the camp’s youth counselors, Shaw said the camp is something he takes pride in.
“I look forward to it tremendously,” he said. “It is something that gives you pride to know that our department can put something of this caliber together and provide it for the community. And to be able to continue to do positive things in the community like this, it makes you feel really good.”
Registration for the camp costs $185, which Shaw says goes toward funding the camp and its activities. To register, visit the police department at 110 N. 11th St, visit pal.leagueapps.com or call 329-0115. Parents have until June 14 to sign their children up for the camp.