Police Activities League Forges Visionary Outreach Programs

Al Powell | Washington Daily News

The Beaufort County Police Activities League (BC PAL) was formed in June 2012 with two specific objectives in mind: (1) demonstrate to youth the importance of a STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math), staying healthy and out of trouble by exposing them to aviation and boating projects, and (2) improve the trust and understanding between the community and law enforcement (and other first responders) through creative projects and events.

To achieve these objectives, BC PAL has developed and implemented a variety of annual summer camps, after school programs and STEM youth career days. During 2015, two unique community events were conducted; a First Responder Appreciation Day at the Washington-Warren Field Airport that attracted over 2,000 individuals and a historic “First Responder Goodwill Basketball Game” at Washington High School. The Beaufort County team consisted of players from all of the local law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), emergency rescue/fire department and local high school teachers. The opponent was the Harlem Ambassadors, a professional comedy basketball team from Denver, Colo. The event is being planned for next year.

During the past years, the U.S. has seen an increase in unfortunate law enforcement shootings involving minority youth. Irrespective of who is subsequently determined to be at fault, these shootings have caused certain members of the community to distrust law enforcement. Since its inception, BC PAL has coordinated and/or participated in a variety of successful community events to facilitate trust and understanding between the community and law enforcement agencies in Beaufort County. That mission is even more important at this time in history. BC PAL is very fortunate to have every major law enforcement agency domiciled in Beaufort County as participants in our events. This proactive participation is meant to send a message to the community that law enforcement agencies in Beaufort County care about the youth and are ambassadors of goodwill assigned to protect and serve.

This year will be a historic year for BC PAL in providing youth activities thanks to a three year Burroughs Welcome Fund (BWF) science and technology grant totaling $161,500 that was awarded to BC PAL. A portion of these funds was used to develop and implement a four-week youth aviation and boating summer camp that included daily swimming lessons. This was the only camp of this type in North Carolina and possibly in the United States. A novel technology-based afterschool program will be started in the fall and is described below.

During the summer camp program, the students met members of the law enforcement, military, fire department, and emergency services to discuss equipment, academic/fitness qualifications, and career planning. The summer program also placed a strong emphasis on youth physical fitness by offering swimming lessons every day and free breakfast and lunch.

The summer camp was four weeks long but consisted of two separate but inter-related two-week programs. The first two weeks exposed the students to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved/endorsed aviation syllabus that included aviation history, building hot air balloons, explaining aerodynamic forces of flight, using a chart, building a compass, and tour of an airport. Dillon’s Aviation Flight School afforded each student an opportunity to fly a real airplane. The Little Washington Sky Diving School offering each student a helicopter ride.

The aviation camp component also included two field trips to military bases that operate aircraft. The U.S. Marine Corps Air Station-Cherry Point trip exposed the youth to the Harrier fighter jet and the related aviation training schools. The Seymour Johnson Air Force Base-Goldsboro trip exposed the youth to the KC-135 Aerial Refueler/cargo airplane and aviation personnel support facilities.

Weeks three and four of the summer camp focused on boating-related topics such as buoyancy, ecology, sailing, snorkeling and boating safety. The USCG Auxiliary conducted a boating introduction course that included types/parts of boats and kayaking safety. A field trip to the USCG Station Hobucken allowed the students to interact with USCG personnel, participate in fitness competitions and tour the USCG boats. North Carolina Estuarium staff explained the local marine ecology while the Pamlico Tar River Foundation coordinated kayaking activities. Blue Region Scuba introduced the students to snorkeling and scuba diving. The students toured the Beaufort County Community College campus and the Basic Law Enforcement Training Academy.

Another highlight of the summer camp occurred during the fourth and last week. The Little Washington Sailing School (LWSS) taught the students how to operate a sailboat on the Pamlico River. LWSS uses a fleet of 14-foot Vanguard sailboats and a curriculum certified by U.S. Sailing (USS); their instructors are certified by USS. The daily camp swimming lessons and USCG Auxiliary boating-introduction course prepared the students for the LWSS program. This is the third year that the BC PAL and the LWSS have participated in this unique partnership, which helps to demonstrate to the students the similar scientific principles between aviation and boating. Funding from the Washington Rotary Club helped to pay for this part of the program.

Beaufort County high-school students were not ignored by BC PAL this summer. BC PAL provided funding for 10 Beaufort County Schools (BCS) high-school students to attend the Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) Aviation Camp which is endorsed and approved by the FAA. This camp was one week long and conducted at ECSU. BCS conducted a countywide search to identify the lucky students. It is hoped that this will be an annual collaboration. Financial contributions from PotashCorp-Aurora and Grady-White Boats helped fund this collaboration.

The fall and spring afterschool program will consist of two 20-session modules. The first module will run from October 2015 to January 2016 and offer CAD programming, 3D printing and building an electric go-kart. The second module will run from February to May 2016 and offer 3D printing, aviation, boating, and remote control airplanes. The sessions will be twice per week from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; the exact location has not been confirmed at this time; however, the location will be in Washington and transportation will be provided. Both sessions will offer Saturday field trips and opportunities to fly an actual airplane.

At this time, space is limited for the afterschool program to 15 middle-school students on a first-come, first-served basis. A waiting list will be maintained. Interested parties should contact Sandra Hodges at the Washington Housing Authority Office at 252-946-0061, ext. 224, to obtain an application or more information. Residents who live in the Washington Housing Authority and students recommended by the Beaufort County Boys & Girls Club staff will be given priority consideration. The program will be free to the students that are selected.

Al Powell is the president of the Beaufort County Police Activities League.

The Beaufort County Police Activities League (BCPAL) is now the Inner Banks STEM Center.