The Prince George’s County Police Athletic League (PAL) ended its Young Entrepreneurs Program (YEP) Thursday with a “Shark Tank”-style event where participants presented their business ideas to local business owners.
YEP helps kids ages 11-17 become business owners themselves.
For 20 years, PAL has been a crime prevention program bringing kids and police together for sports and other activities. Officers say their work has taken on new meaning in the past year.
"A lot of people are hesitant about having police officers as mentors,” Sgt. Kwesi Dadzie said. “Things going on, I understand people’s apprehension."
Dadzie, who is in charge of PAL, says they recently added more officers and activities in hopes of building trust with young people and their parents.
"This way it makes me actually a better police officer, because when you know the people in your community, you police differently," he said.
He says when kids start the program, some go into it a little nervous.
"Yes, I was afraid since I am an African American,” said Adriathan Crockwell, who won a prize at the “Shark Tank” event. “There’s a lot of stories about cops and brutality and everything."
He’s been doing PAL for three years and says he formed friendships with officers along the way.
"it feels great to know that I have someone there by my side who I can trust, as well, and they’re very kind,” he said.
Later this summer the program will offer free martial arts and self-defense classes for young people.