By Rich Scinto
New Haven Register
NEW HAVEN — PAL-Camp New Haven opened its doors this week to 225 city children as the program expanded yet again to give more youths positive and free summer activities.
"We look at this as part of real community policing," said Police Chief Dean Esserman. "The New Haven Police Department believes in and invests in the youth of this city, and I'm proud of our school resource officers."
The free camp is run by the Police Department at Wilbur Cross High School from July 1 to Aug. 1. Funds come from the Police Department, several Yale-affiliated organizations and other groups.
Seven police school resource officers, 35 counselors from Youth at Work, a Yale University Police Department officer, 17 Yale football freshmen and a number of other volunteers help run the camp.
The number of campers has tripled over the past three years as Esserman has made it one of his priorities to engage and serve youth in the city. The camp's offerings have also become broader.
This year the Board of Education provided four teachers to teach language arts, math, music and art.
Campers start the day off by eating a free breakfast, then they do about an hour of calisthenics. Campers also get a free snack and lunch as well as transportation to and from the camp.
Campers, 8 to 13 years old, are grouped by age.
Cal Melendez, 11, said he likes getting to make friends with other campers who live across the city. He's also a fan of the physical activities.
"I like that we play sports and get to be in shape," he said.
Sgt. Albert McFadden, officer in charge of the Youth Division, said one of the camp's goals is to have youth from all over the city meet each other.
"We want them to engage with us and with each other and get rid of this 'I live on this side of town and you live on this side' [attitude]," he said.
Jamarr Daniels, 22, is now in his ninth summer of working at the camp. He supervises volunteers from Youth at Work, Yale football players and other volunteers.
"The kids that come here may not see each other again, but they are networking at a young age, which is great," he said.
Daniels also said it's good that the camp is free and provides low-income students with a positive experience.
Daniels has applied to work at several police departments, including New Haven.
It's not just basketball and classes for camp participants. There will be trips to a New Britain Rock Cats baseball game, bowling, Quassy Amusement Park and even a New York Yankees game courtesy of H.L. Epstein Insurance.
Yale-New Haven Hospital workers will come to play the older campers in basketball games. They also will act as hosts for a mock emergency to expose campers to medical field careers and will educate campers on general health and wellness.
The police union, Downtown Green Association, First Student Bus Co., Camp Cedarcrest and state Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, also helped sponsor or secure funds for the camp.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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