KALAMAZOO, MI — A police athletic league will be created in Kalamazoo with the financial support of federal stimulus dollars coming to the city.
The Kalamazoo City Commission has allocated $1 million of American Rescue Plan Act money for Phase 1 of the Youth Development Fund, establishing the Kalamazoo Police Athletic League and inviting sports program proposals to receive a part of the money.
The Kalamazoo Police Athletic League (PAL) will be a coordinated approach between the Kalamazoo Public Safety Department and the Parks and Recreation Department. A youth program advocate has been hired to oversee the PAL league and will interface directly with KYDNet and Kalamazoo Public Schools, city officials said.
Kalamazoo Department of Parks and Recreation Director Patrick McVerry told MLive that the Kalamazoo region currently has many Rocket Football Leagues, and PAL will create a unified Kalamazoo Rocket Football League so that everyone in town can be part of the same system.
“The PAL league would be for any kid from Kalamazoo to play here in the PAL league, and also play against different PAL leagues in West Michigan,” McVerry said. There are examples of PAL leagues in East Lansing, Detroit and elsewhere.
The Kalamazoo PAL plans to expand with other sports which could include baseball, soccer, and basketball. It aims to incorporate other activities that appeal to young people like robotics, chess, e-sports, gardening and others, he said.
The application process for the programs is being worked out and details will be announced in the future, he said.
Public Safety Chief Vernon Coakley Jr. said he was thrilled to be part of the project. Johnnie Berry will be the youth defender, Coakley said.
The advocate will also help young people by intervening and giving them healthy choices to move forward, and helping them decide not to turn to gun violence, Coakley said.
Coakley participated in the Detroit PAL as a youth, he said.
Eric Cunningham, a member of the previous commission, thanked the commissioners and others for their energy on the job. He said the program recognizes that we need to reach adults and prioritize children.
“In order to see the changes we need, we need to invest in our young people,” Cunningham said.
Commissioner Qianna Decker said she thought it was a great program.
Commissioner Don Cooney thanked the Chief for coming up with ideas on the Police Sports League and for his commitment to reaching out to young people in the community, helping them develop leadership skills and opening doors for them. .
“One of our main goals is to reach kids who have never participated before,” Cooney said. “There are many of them and we will do everything to reach them.”
Commissioner Esteven Juarez said he saw it as a step towards “empowering and contributing to the leaders of our future”.
He hopes there will be a snowball effect, with money from the city joining other funding sources such as philanthropists, to support programs for young people, he said.
The PAL effort aims to increase community interaction and strengthen relationships with law enforcement and the community, McVerry said.
Organizers are modeling the program on the Detroit PAL, a long-running program that has changed the lives of many young people in Detroit, he said.
Organizers hope to help change the lives of young people in Kalamazoo, McVerry said.
The effort grew out of a discussion at the January 3 Kalamazoo Commission meeting about creating a youth subcommittee to develop a plan to fund opportunities to increase programming, outreach, and youth engagement.
The subcommittee includes members of the Kalamazoo City Commission, City staff, Kalamazoo Youth Development Network, Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Kalamazoo Promise. Early meetings recognized the urgency of creating and implementing a plan to reach youth who are unable to participate in summer programs or sports, the city said.
Phase 1 aims to increase the ability of programs to reach these young people with additional funding for organizations offering programs in the summer of 2022.
The Kalamazoo Youth Development Network will oversee and administer the funding for participating organizations. Programs/organizations may submit a proposal that outlines how their application will use the funds to increase the reach of their respective programs.
KYDNet will oversee the million dollars as follows:
- $875,000 will be made available to organizations through the proposal process to increase programming.
- $75,000 will be used to hire a trainer.
KYDnet will oversee program funds and reporting for a 5% administration fee.
KYDNet will add an additional post to help organizations that are not part of their cohort develop ways to record and report data on their programs and the youth they serve. These organizations may not participate in KYDnet due to funding constraints or the current size of their programs. This new position will work with organizations on benchmarks, program details and reporting, the city said.
Once plans are finalized for the PAL league, staff will present a detailed budget to the city commission for approval. If the recommended programs require continued funding, a source of funding other than ARPA funds will also be identified.
At the end of Phase 1, there will be reports on the impact of the funds created, data on the number of young people served who were previously unable to participate, and progress made during their participation.
Phase 2 will be planned and details will be created by the youth sub-committee this summer. The second phase will include after-school programs for youth and families who need resources to help them. In this phase, Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo will be a key partner in reaching and helping families in need, city officials said.
The advocate will also be a key member as the city expands Phase 2 of the program to help reach families of young people in an effort to address generational poverty, according to the city.
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