NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – As the NYPD decides how to cut more than a billion dollars in spending, there are more than 100 families and police officers in Far Rockaway, Queens who are hoping their mentorship program is not in danger.
CBS2’s Cindy Hsu explains.
We don’t often see kids playing football with police officers, but that’s a huge part of a mentoring program called “Neighborhood Coordination School Initiative” or NCSI.
The program started 3 years ago in Far Rockaway. A team of 14 police officers was chosen to help mentor some of the most troubled boys in the area, ages 9 to 11.
The Department of Education recommended 100 young students. Carlton Washington was one of the kids. His father was incarcerated, and his mom Cikaya says her son was getting into lots of trouble, and she was concerned he’d end up in a gang.
“I sought counseling for him, I tried all other type of sports, other disciplinary action and nothing seemed to work until he met these officers in this program,” she said.
Each child is tutored after school. Then the officers pick up the kids and teach them to play flag football, five days a week. Their team is the Far Rockaway Colts, and they’re league champions.
Cikaya says her son Carlton is now on the right path.
“I have a straight A student just about… and I owe that all to this Far Rockaway Colts program,” she said.
Lt. Lenora Moody came up with the idea after learning about a similar program in Los Angeles, but it was a rocky start with the kids.
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“When we first put the program together the fights were everyday,” she said. “We would have 10-15 fights every day. The crying. They were not able to get along with others.”
It was a tough sell to the parents as well.
“When they told me it was officers I was like no, I’m from Brooklyn and we don’t deal with the police,” said mother Shameka Hewitt.
But after talking to officers, her son Londeice wanted to try it.
Along with tutoring and football, the officers take the boys on trips, and build a very personal relationship.
“I was one of those boys growing up, I often got into a lot of trouble and, just like us being cops, I had a cop save my life because I was headed down the wrong path. And to be able to pay it forward means the world,” said Det. Patrick Blanc.
“What we do is no less important than someone that’s taking a drug dealer off the street, or a murderer. Because the interaction that we have with these kids now is going to be what keeps them from dealing with us negatively in the future,” said Sgt. Kai Bowen.
Ahdan McFadden, 11, used to be scared of police. He now considers them family.
“What kinds of things have they taught you?” asked CBS2’s Cindy Hsu.
“Be a role model, be a leader, to be respectful,” Ahdan said.
And that the younger generations are the future.
When we asked the NYPD whether this program might be in jeopardy, they referred budget inquiries to the mayor’s office, which has not responded to our request for comment.