Youngsters from 11-14 will be eligible

The Hannibal Police Department is launching a new youth program this summer aimed at youngsters from 11-14 years old.

Participants in the Positive Alternatives Youth Services (PAY$) program will have the opportunity to perform tasks for the Hannibal #60 School District, Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department, Hannibal Street Department and Northeast Missouri Humane Society.

Participants who perform their assigned task will be rewarded with a variety of prizes including community pool passes, food vouchers from local restaurants, movie passes and cash. The children who successfully complete each task will be offered a $100 shopping spree at a local retailer.

Starting Tuesday, July 9, program participants will have two-hour work periods every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for five weeks, ending Aug. 8.

With the school district's help, approximately 30 youth will be recommended by middle school counselors who they believe will benefit from the program. HPD's School Resource Officers (SRO), who will supervise the program, will interview and select 10 children to participate in the inaugural year.

HPD Chief Lyndell Davis said the program's core goals are to develop the young people's civic awareness and work ethic while promoting a more positive attitude and perception of law enforcement personnel.

Creation of the program was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. "I've had the idea for a couple of years, but over the last several months I have worked with HPD Sgt. Joel Combs on getting this to a place we can start this summer," Davis said.

Before launching the program a number of questions had to be addressed. "You have to evaluate several issues before implementing any new program," Davis said. "How are you going to pay for it? How labor intensive is it, and can you staff it properly? What are the goals of the program and can they reasonably be achieved? Will the program be well received by those the program is targeting?"

Davis credits Combs, an SRO, with finding partners throughout the community who are willing to support the program.

"He made all the contacts and explained what we were trying to accomplish and everything started falling into place," Davis said.

Davis acknowledges that there are "similarities" between the PAY$ program and the Kids in Motion (KIM) and Teens in Motion (TIM) programs which operate under the umbrella of Douglass Community Services. KIM and TIM provide young people with team exercises, volunteer tasks and work experience, teaching participants how to give back to their community and earn money while honing work skills and looking toward the future.

"What sets us apart is the (PAY$) program will be managed 100 percent by HPD officers," Davis said. "The opportunity to mold these youth to be better citizens and develop positive relations and attitude toward law enforcement is worth our efforts."

While KIM and TIM seek to help at-risk youth, Davis said PAY$ has a broader approach.

"We didn't limit who the school counselors recommended,” he said. “We want kids who will benefit from this program and grow as a person. We don't want to label them or limit who can participate."

Davis believes there are numerous youth in Hannibal who could benefit from a program such as PAY$.

"The middle school years can be tough on students, teachers and parents," he said. "Kids at this age experience significant changes physically, mentally and emotionally. Most kids during this phase of life could benefit from our PAY$ program."

Davis said that the number of participants is limited to 10 so that there would be a "manageable number" in the program's initial year. Those who successfully complete all five weeks of the program will be recognized during a brief graduation ceremony in mid-August.



danny.henley@courierpost.com