SB Police Activities League strives to bridge the gap between kids, cops and our community | Good for Santa Barbara

Posted on November 22, 2021
| 15:00

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In this interview, Noozhawk sat down with Judie Lugo, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Police Activities League, to learn more about how the nonprofit is dedicated to building a bridge between cops, kids and our community through educational, athletic and leadership enrichment programs.

League of Police Activities of Santa Barbara

Question: What is the name and mission of your non-profit organization?

Reply: The Santa Barbara Police Activities League (SBPAL) strives to build a bridge between cops, kids and our community through educational, athletic and leadership enrichment programs.

PAL’s vision is to empower the next generation of leaders by encouraging dedication to civic engagement, providing access to resources and instilling trust. PAL serves youth ages 11-18. Over 95% of PAL participants are Latinx and come from Spanish-speaking and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The average family income of the youth we serve is $ 40,000.

All PAL participants are entitled to a free or discounted lunch on campus. The main goals of PAL are to enable students to achieve academic success, to have a life plan after high school, to improve their attitude towards law enforcement and to develop their civic responsibility.

In the Santa Barbara Unified School District, only 42.95% of Hispanic / Latinx graduates and 40.77% of low-income graduates meet the eligibility criteria of the University of California and California State University AG. PAL strives to help students graduate from high school and have a plan for their future. PAL has a 9-year trend of 100% high school graduation rate and 100% post-secondary enrollment among PAL students

Question: How long has your association been in operation?

A: SBPAL was founded in 1999 by retired officer Kent Wojciechoski.

Question: How is your non-profit organization primarily funded and what are your greatest needs?

A: SBPAL is fully funded by community support and grants, not by the government or the police department. Our greatest need is general operational support to continue to employ our trusted expert staff and maintain our Twelve35 Teen Center.

Question: What is the impact of COVID-19 on your non-profit organization?

A: The PAL Board of Directors and the City of Santa Barbara Police Department are committed to the success and sustainability of PAL’s programs and are actively working to expand donor engagement and fundraising.

We were unable to host our annual gala in 2020 or 2021, which typically brings in around $ 150,000. We have created two new fundraisers to help fill this gap. In April, we hosted a fun virtual run for everyone in the community, including the local police department and PAL students, to raise money for their organization.

This summer we will be hosting the Battle of the Badges fundraiser. Our local police department will challenge other law enforcement agencies and first responders to a relay race. They ask their friends, family, and local agencies and businesses to sponsor them. We hope to raise $ 50,000 during this event.

In addition, we will continue to ask for support from the community and foundations.

Question: What types of fundraisers and / or programs does your nonprofit run?

A: PAL offers enrichment programs at the Twelve35 Teen Center in downtown Santa Barbara. Programming includes tutoring through the Life After High School Academy, tutoring with volunteers from Cal-SOAP, Pedal Power with the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, outdoor education with Wilderness Youth Project, a Supermen boy group, a WonderWoman girl group, the Bridge mentoring program with local police officers, a weekly fitness and wellness class, the Teen Leadership Academy, an outdoor fitness and recreation area and the role of PAL as the main agency of Campership Alliance.

Question: How do people get involved / volunteer for your nonprofit organization?

A: People can get involved or volunteer on our website.

Question: How is your non-profit organization different from others?

A: Our work is unique in that we are the only organization in Santa Barbara that specifically serves youth ages 11-18 with the goal of building positive relationships between disadvantaged youth and local law enforcement through cohesive police interactions and mentoring.

Question: Can you share a story or two of people whose lives have been changed because of your organization?

A: A former Youth Leadership Council participant said, “I started attending PAL in grade 8 and I can honestly say they changed my life. I was not very sociable, happy, involved in my community or had a lot of friends before I started going to PAL. Through my involvement in the Youth Leadership Council, I have been able to develop the skills and strengths that I have now. I can now say that I feel more confident in the way I behave and in the things I do, I am able to speak more freely to new people and form new relationships, I have contributed to the community through many events that I have helped plan and organize in YLC, and I was really happy. I am eternally grateful to PAL for helping me develop these abilities.

A PAL student wrote: “Without friends, arguably, and self-hatred, I didn’t see the point in going to college. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I cried to fall asleep, spent countless hours studying – hit my breaking point. I was failing classes, I was considering giving up and giving up on myself. However, a friend from PAL was going to visit the Teen Center and invited me to go with him. As much as I tried to keep a happy brow, I know I couldn’t pretend with the people who helped me in my lowest moments. As I opened up, they made me realize that the person I am becoming is not the person I want to be.

Question: How is the work of your non-profit organization communicated to the public?

A: We share the impact of our work on our website and social media. Find us on Facebook and Twitter @SantaBarbaraPAL and on Instagram @sbpal.

Question: Can you tell us a short term goal AND a long term goal that your nonprofit has for next year?

A: The pandemic and associated stressors have highlighted the need for increased mental health support and education for the adolescents we serve. We have worked to build closer relationships with local organizations that can provide support in this area and continue to expand our socio-emotional learning program through new community partnerships.

Over the next year, we hope to create a permanent outdoor recreation and fitness area in the space adjacent to the Twelve35 Teen Center. At the start of the pandemic, we started using the area to provide a safe and socially remote space for tutoring.

We have since transformed it into a space with workout classes three times a week and fitness equipment, such as a stationary bike, yoga mats, medicine balls, free weights, and more. We hope to get permission to make this a permanent space for our teens to use and enjoy the health and wellness benefits!

Click here to support the Santa Barbara Police Activities League’s mission to bridge the gap between cops, kids and our community through educational, athletic and leadership enrichment programs.

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Richard V. Johnson