A new partnership between Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Great Houston and the Houston Police Department is aimed at getting cops and kids to interact in a positive way. Here’s more from Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams
For 10-year Houston Police veteran Adrian Conejo, being a Big Brother to 9-year-old 3rd grader Alex Valdez is a privilege. Conejo is one of three police officers and an HPD employee who have been paired with boys and girls so far, with plenty more waiting for matches.
“I really believe that the children need a better perspective of police officers rather than just seeing what they see on TV, which isn’t always positive. If they get to meet us and realize and get to talk to us and be there so we can answer questions. If it’s about our job or life in general, just there to support them and let them know we’re here for them.”
The partnership pairs boys and girl who are students at the Ripley House Charter School in the East End with officers, who go to the school at least one hour a week to interact with them. Officer Nishala Stewert met 8-year-old Alize Castro last week.
“I’ve always been interested in working with kids, so it was a no-brainer for me. It’s a no-brainer, to help any child, talk to them, be able to play, do school work, whatever she wants to do if fine with me, so I’m excited. It’s a privilege for me actually.”
There are more than a thousand boys and girls still waiting for Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Houston. Russane Kelley is with Big Brothers and Big Sisters and says it makes sense to pair cops and kids before crimes happen, not just after.
“They’re going into the schools in a preventative way, working with these kids. They’re not going in with drug-sniffing dogs and breaking-up fights. They’re going in as positive role-models for these kids, as friends, as mentors. It could be huge. The circular just went out about three weeks ago and we already have over 20 applications from police officers who want to be “bigs.” We are so excited about this partnership.”
Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt says there’s an obvious need for positive interaction between police officers and at-risk kids.
“This effort to get mentors for our young people is very important, because if we don’t provide them with role-models, they will find one, or one will find them. We wanted to make sure that this partnership is a positive experience for our young people to help them to make good decisions, not only to stay in school and succeed in school but also to make good decisions in being a great citizen.”
You can find more information about Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Houston through a link on our website, KUHF.org.