Going to the Bronx Zoo, the movies and other fun places sounds like every New York kid’s summer break dream, and that’s exactly what 10 city children got to do last week, thanks to the 20th Precinct, which held its inaugural youth summer camp.
“The kids that we have are between the ages of eight and 10,” said Officer Nefta Richards, who organized the program. “And sometimes parents don’t necessarily put their kids in summer school or summer programs. So I thought it would be just different for the police department to do a camp where we just kind of travel the city and did things for a week or so. Just visit the sights.”
Improving RelationshipsRichards approached City Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s office for support and funding for the Upper West Side program. She then reached out to parent coordinators from PS 191 and PS 452 to find kids who might be interested in the free, one-week camp.
“You’ve got officers in the precinct who say, ‘I want to work a little bit harder, I want to do something a little bit different, I want to do something to help the young people in the community,’” Rosenthal said. “That’s exactly what we should be supporting. In the Council we go out of our way to support programs that help young kids, and if we’re serious about improving relationships between the police and the community, this is how it starts.”
Richards echoed Rosenthal’s sentiments. “I think it’s important that they see us in a different light,” she said.
After a week of field trips, including Governer’s Island, the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Aquarium, campers sat down with Rosenthal to discuss what they learned from each trip, as well as their favorite parts of the camp.
Looking to the FutureWhen asked if they would come back to the camp the following week if they could, every camper said they yes. One 10-year-old camper also noted that she would recommend the camp to a friend if it were to happen again. “I would say, ‘You should come to this camp I went to if you haven’t really been to a lot of places in New York,’” she said.
Though the camp involved a lot of preparation and time on behalf of the officers involved, Richards said she hopes to continue the program in the future.“It was definitely a success,” she said. “It does warm my heart when they said that they had a good day. It keeps me going.”
Rosenthal expressed her commitment to continuing to support the camp. “[Richards is] already excited to do next summer, so I’ll be doing whatever I can to help her,” she said. “We’re bringing out the best in these kids.”