Local Police Making an Impact on the Youth of South Bend

Anna Fuller, Photographer / Reporter

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The South Bend Police Department’s Police Athletic League has been around almost a decade, but there’s no denying the positive impact the program has had on the youth in South Bend community in this short amount of time. The program brings together police officers from the community to interact and instill kids with a sense of discipline and success through boxing. The league is housed at the Beacon Resource Center, and everywhere from the boxing rings, the gym floor, to even the bleachers where parents watch their kids, is full of life, excitement, and inspiration. Here’s what Chief Boykins, who started the program, and Sargent Dave Herron, who coaches at the league, have to say about the program and the benefits it has locally.

 

How did you get involved with the program?

Chief Boykins– About seven or eight years ago, the current chief asked me to assist in the start up of a boxing program, which many police departments had at the time. I agreed and I went out and found Grace Church, who allowed me to use their space. We received grants to buy the rings and other equipment, and I convinced some officers to help coach. As the word spread around, we started offering more things, such as a tutoring program which Notre Dame Boxing helps out with. The point of the program is to get the kids and their parents to a point where they want to come do activities with us as a police department. Keeping this at no-cost is very important to us, and we couldn’t do it without the help of the community. Many people accuse the department of not doing anything, but they’re very wrong. They just aren’t paying attention.

 

Sgt. Herron– I had someone reach out when I was younger and try to help me stay out of trouble at home, at school, with friends, and with authority figures. It’s satisfying to be able to help kids who need it, show them the ways of police officers, and show them how to overcome adversity, especially here in training. We don’t accept the phrase “I can’t” and we for sure don’t accept giving up. We push the kids to believe they can achieve any goal they want through just a little bit of hard work. I say a “little bit” of hard work because that’s all it is; you just need a little bit of it to achieve whatever it is you want to accomplish.

 

How have you seen the positive impact this program has on the youth of South Bend?

Chief Boykins– It’s great working with the kids and seeing their improvement. This program boosts their confidence and then they start believing in themselves when they wipe away their tears. We make it so when they fall down, they want to get back up. We aren’t going to let them stay down.

Sgt. Herron– The most rewarding part of it is seeing kids progress then come back and help out after they graduate. The overall goal is making productive citizens in the community. Chief Boykins came up with offering a tutoring program because we understand kids struggle in school sometimes, so we have Notre Dame boxers that come and help tutor once a week, which adds to the discipline and advancement. Parents and school administrators alike give us good reviews and calls and tell us that they appreciate this program and they see the rewards and improvements in a kid that was struggling previously.