PAL adds academics to athletics

TUPELO – Students attending the Police Athletic League this year will notice big changes in the program.
Executive Director Sgt. Michael Russell said that instead of having children boxing or playing basketball every day, they will have to pay attention to academics as well.
Even though Russell has been available for tutoring since the program was started in 2005, the only school work that was required was a daily 30-minute reading period before students could participate in sports.
But now they will have to sign a contract agreeing to maintain a C average and good behavior in school to participate in the program. The contract also requires the students to bring all progress reports to Russell.
It has to be signed by a school official because Russell also will be checking on the students’ progress in school.
“We’re still going to play basketball and box and do the things the kids like to do,” said Russell, “but we are going to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing in school as well. More emphasis will be put on academics this year and I think that’s going to benefit the kids.”
Earlier this year, Russell and Sgt. Katarsha White attended the National PAL Conference in Albany, N.Y. Russell said that trip helped him generate ideas on how to make PAL a better program.
People from different professions will be brought in throughout the year to speak to the students, who will be required to keep a journal on the speakers.
“We want to show them that they have career options and it’s not to early to start thinking about them now,” said Russell. “We are going to bring in bankers, lawyers, barbers and just anyone who we think can help the kids.”
Another new rule at PAL calls for students to be expelled from the program if they are caught fighting at school. If that happens, the students won’t be allowed to re-enroll.
Basketball is held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. The PAL bus will pick up at the middle school and high school. Boxing will be held on Tuesday and Thursday.
Enrollment forms can be picked up at 419 Robert E. Lee Drive and the PAL building. Contact Russell at (662) 840-2535.

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal