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After seeing news reports from throughout the country of shootings of unarmed black men, many of them teens, Shannon Grice, Congress Middle School’s eighth-grade assistant principal, reached out to the Boynton Beach Police Department to forge relationships between her male students and the men in blue.
The program, called Boys and Blue, is designed to have the officers be a mentor and a resource for the boys.
“I have a 10-year-old son,” Grice said. “After these shootings, he asked me a lot of questions about what transpired and we talked a lot about it at home. It’s important for these boys to have someone they can go to in the community.”
She said she believes it’s a two-way street and that the officers are being educated about how an adolescent thinks.
“Boys this age don’t like to take orders,” Grice said. “This teaches the officers how to relate to teenage boys. And this gives the boys someone in the community they can go to for help.”
Designed as an academic tutoring program, she said she didn’t want her students to feel they were being lectured.
“The primary focus is on academics and then on building the relationships,” Grice said. “Middle-school kids need this approach.”
Mike Johnson, a major with the Boynton Beach Police Department, said he has 15 officers participating in the program, spending one hour once a week to help mentor students with their school work.
“We’re building a bridge between law enforcement and our youth,” he said. “They feel they can call us outside of school; we’re there for them.
“We do anything we can to be a positive role model and to look out for their best interests,” Johnson said. “It’s an outstanding opportunity for us to give back and have the chance to work with these young males.
“We’re making a positive impact in their lives and it’s exciting to see these kids grow and develop into better students and youth.”
Nathan W. Jean Louis, 13, a sixth-grader, is one of the boys in the program.
He enjoys science, reading and basketball and is assigned to Officer Eric Lampe, 26, who is working to improve Nathan’s math scores.
His older brother, Garlens, 14, an eighth-grader, is also in the program.
Nathan loves to watch the Discovery Kids Channel and hopes one day to be like Coyote Peterson on “Brave Wilderness,” an adventurer and animal enthusiast, and combine his love for adventure with helping rescue animals.
“I’m grateful to Officer Lampe,” he said. “He’s helped me a lot.”
He doesn’t buy all the negative publicity about police officers and said they help keep people safe, but he added, “they could ask questions instead of making assumptions.”
“I hope our presence can help with study strategies,” Lampe said. “The program shows these kids we are humans and that we are here to help them. We’re not always the negative stereotypes you see in the media.
“Nathan is a bit shy and a good kid,” he said. “My job is to help steer him in the right direction – get better grades, do your homework and do well in school.”
Asked if he would recommend the program to his friends, Nathan said, “very much,” despite some negative peer pressure about joining the program.
Does he think of Lampe as a big brother?
“He’s my guardian and mentor,” he said.
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