Three cheers for all of the organizers and volunteer counselors who led the 2023 PRIDE Academy this past week, August 2-4th, offering a summer camp experience for children entering Arkansas Middle School. The camp is designed to foster lasting relationships between children and officers, as well as provide guidance for children at a critical juncture in their lives. PRIDE stands for Personal Responsibility in Daily Efforts, and each day of camp had a theme such as resisting peer pressure, living with integrity, and personal empowerment.
The 46 children who attended are all entering sixth grade, which means they’re at an especially impressionable age. The camp focuses on building positive relationships between the campers and the adult authority figures leading the camp activities and on ensuring opportunities for positive reinforcement for all. The camp ran from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day, with the last day featuring a graduation ceremony where each “recruit” received a diploma, as well as a backpack stocked with school supplies for the upcoming year.
Every fifth grader in the Arkansas-side school district received a letter announcing the academy, and inviting any to apply, with a limit of fifty. The students were divided into five teams, with students from all five elementary schools mixed into every group to introduce new relationships among the students as they head to a middle school campus where they are all co-mingled; TAPD leaders equally disperse the youth among the teams to counter the potential for challenging turf-fueled student interactions when they begin middle school which might be carried over from prior elementary placements. Each team was then assigned police officers to serve as team leaders.
The past has shown behavioral issues become apparent because of groups that form in elementary school and carry over to the middle school campus. By the time these youth come together at the middle school, the dominant and aggressive personalities of these cliques clash and cause most of the behavioral issues the school is experiencing. TAPD leaders hope that by breaking up these cliques and equally dispersing the youth among the teams, it will help to resolve these behaviors within the classroom when they begin the school year.
While TAPD officers are participating in the academy, they stress that it’s a community effort with plenty of local volunteers on hand to assist officers and with speakers from around the area and state coming in to address the recruits, as well.
Organizers express their sincere gratification for the long-lasting support of this community and the forever bonds they are creating with our youth. They also want to thank the PRIDE program founder, Kristi Bennett, because without her vision the program would not be where it is today.
THANKS TO ALL INVOLVED – for stepping up to lead the way in your commitment to the success of the young people in Texarkana, AR!