Afterschool & Law Enforcement: Using Lights On Afterschool to collaborate in new ways

by Elizabeth Tish

Last month, local police officers joined the Child Center of New York at Basie Beacon IS 72 for a youth-driven Lights On Afterschool celebration in Queens, N.Y. After identifying conflict with police as a major issue in their community, the program’s youth council developed the theme of the evening, “Improvement Starts with ‘I:’” a call for everyone in the community to play a role in improving relations with local police.

“We like to speak to the students as part of the Beacon program and get their ideas on current events,” said Barry Barclift, Program Coordinator of the Basie Beacon program, explaining the value of youth-led programming.

To bring youth and law enforcement officers together, Beacon hosted a basketball game with youth and officers from the 113th Precinct. Students who weren’t interested in playing basketball got involved in the event as members of the dance and step groups that performed at half-time. One student in the program even emceed the game, amusing parent and community spectators.  

Lights On event leads to future partnerships

“The event allowed students to see the officers in a different light. When you see them in uniform, you see them one way, but if you see them out of uniform or participating in a basketball game, you look at them differently,” explained Barclift. After Lights On Afterschool, the students asked to have monthly events with the officers. These events will continue to be planned with input from the youth council.

Barclift said that the 113th Precinct officers are very supportive and excited to continue working with the Beacon program: “They are going to come and assist anywhere that we need them, so that our students see that [the officers] are invested in the community, even though they don’t live here.”

While the youth council will continue to plan events, they will also give the officers an opportunity to offer future partnership ideas to guide their work with the program going forward.

Barclift advises programs who are looking to adopt a similar partnership model to follow a youth-led approach. He wants Beacon’s law enforcement programming to be a collaboration between the youth council and police officers moving forward, an approach that allows the students to have ownership over the interaction and work hard to create a product they are proud of, while allowing officers to connect with students through an activity that excites them.   

© 2013 Afterschool Alliance