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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The Fort Pierce Police Department’s Courageous Kids outreach program is helping local children learn new skills while exposing them to a variety of ideas, places, and opportunities they may never have experienced otherwise.
Chief Diane Hobley-Burney implemented the Courageous Kids program shortly after she joined the department in 2015, making children the primary focus of renewed efforts to build strong community relationships. The mentoring program improves the relationship between cops and children by building mutual trust, increasing the children’s confidence, and teaching them to be courageous. It also provided the officers with a broader insight of how kids view life.
Courageous Kids started with officers reading to students in classrooms, and engaging with them at a weekly playtime in a neighborhood park. Still, Chief Hobley-Burney knew she wanted to expand the program to include other meaningful experiences whenever the opportunity would allow. While talking to members of the local sailing and yacht clubs, she suddenly realized that the Courageous Kids would love a chance to enjoy an unforgettable boating experience on the beautiful Fort Pierce waterways.
Collaborating with the Treasure Coast Youth Sailing Foundation in the summer of 2017, police staff developed a plan for the Courageous Kids program to sponsor 12 local boys and girls in a sailing course that introduced them to wind, water and South Florida marine life in a way most students said they would never forget.
“It was fun because I never had a chance to sail before,” said Monecia, 11 years old. “I learned to sail for the first time, and getting on the boats was the best memory for me.”
The Courageous Kids sailing program members met over the course of nine Saturday mornings throughout the summer on the beautiful Indian River, which is the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Pierce and the Treasure Coast. Police staff and Sailing Foundation volunteers partnered to make sure each session ran smoothly and provided an enjoyable learning experience for the young sailors, who ranged in age from 8 to 15 years old.
Most days included several minutes of verbal instruction, but the excitement came as kids climbed in the boats and experienced the thrill of being guided by the wind into a “brave new world” of adventure and beauty. The small boats, made for beginners, didn’t take long to get out on the water after setting up and shoving off from the warm sandy beach.
As much as police staff and Sailing Foundation volunteers wanted to develop future winners of the America’s Cup, what they really achieved was teaching the children teamwork, perseverance and a spirit of adventure.
The lessons often taught the students how to make the best of a bad situation, such as the windless periods that every sailor must learn to manage. The sailing coaches used the opportunity to demonstrate that sometimes patience is the best solution — especially when circumstances cannot be so easily controlled. At those moments, the kids either sat in the motionless boats talking, or quietly admiring the beautiful scenery. At other times they turned their youthful energy into fun water games, shell hunting or tossing a ball around the beach.
What mattered most was the learning experience as the kids began to realize the point of it all -- to enjoy Florida’s beauty while working together to accomplish a goal.
While every child enjoyed the relaxation of sailing on a gentle breeze, some favored the occasional powerboat rides when the wind was still. Either way, there was something for everyone, including a pod of dolphins that swam by close to shore, bobbing playfully in the small waves and thrilling the children with an amazing sight that most had never seen.
In addition to sailing, the Courageous Kids participated in a raft race (after building the raft themselves) at one of their weekly park gatherings. Volunteers from the Sailing Foundation provided the materials, then spent time teaching the kids how to safely work with power tools, lumber and hardware. The group also delighted in bonding together at the end of each sailing session, enjoying home-cooked lunches provided by the volunteers. At the close of each session, the kids went home to ponder the moments of the day.
At the end of the nine-week program, parents were invited to a wrap-up event where each child was presented a completion certificate and a medallion, courtesy of the Sailing Foundation. The children and volunteers talked about how much fun they had and began making plans for future sailing opportunities.
The Courageous Kids sailing program offered a window into a new world for the children, and the parents were impressed with the results. “It was a wonderful program allowing the kids to experience something they would never, ever get to do,” said Takeshia, mother of four children in the group. “They learned a lot, and they really enjoyed it.”
Police and Sailing Foundation members are already working on plans for the next Courageous Kids sailing outreach. In the meantime, officers continue meeting kids at the weekly park gatherings, talking, playing and mentoring the future leaders of the city.
With additional Courageous Kids activities on the horizon, it’s an exciting time to be a child in the City of Fort Pierce.
For more information, contact:
Public Information Officer
Fort Pierce Police Department
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