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Police helping kids stay out of summer trouble

Posted at 5:39 PM, Jun 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-02 20:16:00-04

Thursday was the last day of school in Palm Beach County, and West Palm Beach Police are already reaching out to children and teens, encouraging them to stay off of the streets and be a part of something positive this summer.

Officers say usually when school is out for the summer, crime goes up because a lot of kids are on the streets with nothing to do. They say PAL, the Police Athletic League, can help.

The program offers sports leagues for kids, and police officers volunteer as coaches. This summer, kids can register for football and cheerleading until June 25th.

Once they get older, they can be part of the teen program. Many teens spend their time at the PAL Center at 7th and Tamarind, playing games, doing crafts and making friends.

Fifteen-year-old Zavaian Steward headed straight to PAL Thursday afternoon after Palm Beach Lakes High School let out.

"It's like a second home," Steward says. "They're here with you and they're here for you, and we have so much to do in the summer, you will never get bored."

Steward began in PAL's football league when he was five-years-old. Ten years later, he says, he's thankful he got involved.

"It's actually kept me out of trouble," he says, "The people I used to hang out with, I don't know without PAL where I'd be right now."

Teens like Steward get to go on field trips and participate in community service projects, all at no cost.

PAL mentor JT Taylor, who began the program as a child himself about 20 years ago, says the activities and mentoring opportunities kids in PAL are involved in are life-changing.

"When you wake up every day and all you see is problems and issues, that's all you think and that's all there is," Taylor says, "But when you broaden your horizons, you want to go further."

Taylor also says PAL helps change kids' perspective of law enforcement. Because police volunteer and take part in fun activities with participants, they're being seen in a more positive light.