This year’s Police Athletic League camp promises another fun-filled summer of sports and games, with a plot twist that will have campers diving into the pages of a graphic novel about a real-life American hero.
PAL is partnering with the not-for-profit group New Haven Reads to take campers through a summer reading program that includes U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ first person account of his life and work fighting for civil and human rights as told in his graphic novel March Book 1.
New Haven Reads Executive Director Kirsten Levinsohn said that often times children see reading as more school work, but the graphic novel often changes the perception of reading and makes it feel fun. Younger students will also get a graphic novel of their own to read: Big Nate Out Loud by Lincoln Peirce.
Adding reading to the mix of summer activities PAL offers is part of Mayor Toni Harp’s strategy to “get kids to read and read on grade level.” Harp said PAL’s camp is a chance for “hundreds of kids to stay healthy, safe and productive.”
Chief Dean Esserman said this is the fourth year that the five-week camp has sought to expand its reach with a goal of serving more children and offering more things to do. Camp orientation is June 20 at Wilbur Cross.
Camp starts June 29 at the same location and goes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday. Campers not only get a free ride to camp each day, but they also get free breakfast and lunch. The camp is open to children who are residents of New Haven ages 8 to 13. (Register for camp here.)
Esserman said the camp never turns away a child even if they can’t join the camp until the last week.
Assistant Chief Archie Generoso said the officers involved with the camp—Capt. Tony Duff, Sergeants Al McFadden and Elisa Tuzzoli—work the whole year to put it together, and their efforts are paying off. “Pretty soon we’re going to need two schools,” he said.
“It’s an exciting time,” Duff (pictured at the microphone) said. “It gets a little hectic at times, but that’s what makes it exciting.”
Members of the Yale University football team will again serve as mentors along with New Haven and Yale police officers to campers, while New Haven teens recruited for summer jobs through the city’s Youth Department will serve as peer counselors.
The camp also is partnering with Yale-New Haven Hospital to work with students on nutrition and safety issues. The camp also is taking on another new partner in LiveKind, which will work with the campers and the police to build empathy and kindness.
Live Kind CEO and co-founder Daniel Zimmerman said the partnership would produce short movies featuring cops and kids that ultimately will be used in trainings designed to help both groups build empathy skills and better relationships.