CMPD summer youth program builds respect, character, relationships

CMPD summer youth program builds respect, character, relationships

Friday, was the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's summer REACH program graduation.

REACH (Respect, Engage, Accountability, Character and Honesty) Academy is a six-week summer program that builds positive relationships between participants and police officers. It also promotes personal and social responsibility through leadership opportunities, educational seminars and field trips, and career and vocational development classes.

There was plenty of praise for the program from parents, participants and police officers.

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One of the enthusiastic participants was Zion Simpson, a rising ninth grader at Myers Park High School.

(L) Zion Simpson, CMPD REACH program participant with (R) CMPD Sgt. Richard Nelson
(L) Zion Simpson, CMPD REACH program participant with (R) CMPD Sgt. Richard Nelson

“We learned how to renovate a house. We went to the rope course at the fire department. They really wanted us to push ourselves to the limit,” Simpson said. “We got to learn yoga and we got to eat Chick-fil-A almost every day.”

Upon graduation, youth can participate in monthly “booster sessions” designed to nurture the education and relationships developed in the summer program.

REACH started this summer in the shadow of protests this spring following the death of George Floyd, and during a period of social isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Since the death of George Floyd everybody’s been mad at police officers, but coming here, the police officers aren’t really as bad as people make them seem,” Simpson said.

“I guess everybody thinks that police officers ... are bad, but most of them are actually good. It’s only like the select few police officers (who) are not doing the right thing.”

The REACH program is part of the CMPD Youth Engagement Unity. The group was formed to reduce the number of children and teenagers referred to the criminal justice system by providing various opportunities for education, leadership and personal growth.

“They all said they got so much out of this program, but I also wanted them to know that they made an impact on the officers lives as well,” CMPD Sgt. Richard Nelson said.

“You do develop a relationship with them, and you want to see them succeed in all avenues of their lives.”

This engaging program puts officers and kids together in healthy, social activities and builds exceptional relationships and mutual respect and understanding.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, public affairs manager at WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.