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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
On any given morning, you will see vehicles from the Newport News Sheriff's Office or the Newport News Police Department posted up outside of An Achievable Dream Middle and High School in Newport News, Virginia. While the casual observer might assume trouble inside, members of the community know that this is merely part of the morning ritual that starts the day at An Achievable Dream. As students enter the building, law enforcement officers greet the students with a firm handshake and a bright, “Good morning!” “This happens every single day of the year,” says An Achievable Dream, Inc. and President and CEO Kathy Edwards, “even on a day like today when we have testing!”
The partnership between An Achievable Dream, the Newport News Police Department (NNPD), and the Newport News Sheriff's Office (NNSO) has been sustained for over twenty five years. An Achievable Dream was founded in 1992 by the late Walter Segaloff. It began as an after-school tennis program, but the need was so great that, with an unusual level of community support, the program expanded to after school care and enrichment. At present, An Achievable Dream has two full-time school campuses in Newport News, one in Virginia Beach (VA), and one in Henrico (VA). AAD’s innovative Social, Academic, and Moral Education (SAME) curriculum teaches students about financial literacy, etiquette, peaceful conflict resolution, healthy living, mindfulness, and ethics. Members of the Newport News Police Department, Newport News Sheriff’s Office, and soldiers from Fort Eustis have tremendously important roles in the lives of An Achievable Dream students on a daily basis. Not only do these participants greet the students and perform uniform inspections, they also teach classes on conflict resolution and bullying, and participate in “Hoops with a Cop.”
The partnership has been both long-lived and remarkably successful. An Achievable Dream boasts a 100% graduation rate for students and 95% of students will go on to higher education. On June 6, 2018, An Achievable Dream, the Newport News Police Department, and the Newport News Sherriff’s Office were awarded the 2017 L. Anthony Sutin Civic Imagination Award in a ceremony at An Achievable Dream Middle and High School. The award recognizes the efforts of innovative and collaborative partnerships between law enforcement and community members whose civic interaction has transformed public safety in their community. The award is given to a team of two or more individuals – at least one law enforcement officer and one community member – involved in a high-impact and transformative collaboration that best exemplifies community policing.
“My 34 years in law enforcement taught me that there’s no better place to start improving police-community relations than with our young people,” said Director Phil Keith of the COPS Office. “It’s the most basic concept, and also the most true: he stronger the relationship between youth and law enforcement, the stronger our communities become.” Sheriff Gabe Morgan (NNSO) pointed out that the benefits of the partnership are mutual: “It benefits my officers to see you young people every day. It gives them energy and reminds them of why they went into public service.”
Master Deputy Trisha Brown (NNSO), who has been a regular presence on the An Achievable Dream campus for the past five years said, “The acknowledgement of our work at An Achievable Dream Middle and High School is nice and unexpected. Spending time with the students is something I believe in. Sheriff Morgan’s passion for being involved with youth rubs off on us. The national recognition of our deputies connecting with kids is a tribute to this unique partnership that gives students who are at risk of failure due to socioeconomic factors a chance to succeed.”
At the Sutin Award ceremony, representatives from all of the partner agencies spoke. Students and officers gave a demonstration of their morning ritual, including their handshakes, uniform inspection, and the recitation of the school’s “banners,” or statements of belief and affirmation. Rising ninth-grader Tashara Jones shared her experiences in the explorer program with the Newport News Sheriff’s Office, and impassioned descriptions of the work at An Achievable Dream were given by Director of Operations Purvis Blake, as well as Derrick Wilson, the SRO Master Police Officer assigned to the school. Officer Wilson said, “One day, I want to see one of the kids I work with here be the doctor who cures cancer.” The ceremony concluded with a cupcake reception for the adults. The students, however, had to return for SLO testing; it was a school day, after all.
“To catch the children when they’re young, that’s the starting point,” said Master Deputy Brown. “ I remember when I first stepped inside An Achievable Dream, many of the kids didn’t care we were there or remember our names. Over time, they remember our names, they count on seeing us, and they often open up about what is going on in their lives. We work hard to make sure they have what they need to be successful in school. That hopefully will carry over into becoming a success in their life. Creating that bond pays off. If we can make a difference for one child, we’ve succeeded.”
The 2018 L. Anthony Sutin Civic Engagement Award is open for nominations until August 1, 2018. More information is available at https://cops.usdoj.gov/default.asp?Item=2587.
Photos from the award ceremony:
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