School closings have taken front page in the press but there is one place that is open for the children of Southwest Philadelphia where they can grow and learn in a fun and safe environment.
Southwest Police Athletic League (PAL) at 5900 Elmwood Ave. provides activities for youth which they might no longer be provided in public schools.
Philadelphia Police officer Cedric Jones oversees activities at the Southwest PAL where he has served as director for the past 8 years. He said that he loves working with children.
“We try to keep the kids busy doing different things,” Jones said. “We have different events going on at the PAL center and outside the PAL we take them to Sixers basketball games, we have golf outings, concerts and other things.”
However, Jones noted its not all about fun and games at the Southwest PAL. The youth who visit the facility on weekdays have responsibilities and one of those responsibilities is completing their school homework assignments before anything else.
“Kids must do homework first,” Jones said. “After they do their homework we have a basketball league, we have flag football, we have baseball when the weather breaks, tennis and soccer.”
There is also a dance team, computer lab, homework assistance and other activities.
Southwest PAL not only help guide and shape the development of the youth but also provide opportunities for them to take on greater responsibilities and employment.
Amber Brown, who works at the Southwest PAL as the homework assistant, helping the children with their homework after school, is currently a student at Community College of Philadelphia.
“She grew up in PAL,” Jones said. “She gives back by helping the young ones and gets paid for it as well.”
PAL also acquired the services of a local high school senior who works as an assistant at the Southwest PAL’s computer lab.
“These same two girls grew up in the Southwest PAL since they were 8 or 9-years-old, until they graduated high school and had an opportunity to come back and work at the PAL but they are PAL kids,” Jones said.
Jones says that he has always taken an interest in the children even when working at the police district at 55th and Pine streets in West Philadelphia.
“At 55th and Pine, I always worked with the kids,” he said. “I had them in basketball leagues and so fourth and the kids really enjoyed that. When I had an opportunity to work at PAL things got even better.”
Jones said police officers have to be assigned to work at PAL by and must request transfers to PAL in writing. From there, the requests are reviewed and, if approved, the officers are reassigned.
“It turned out fantastic,” Jones said. “You really have to enjoy kids to work at PAL; everybody can’t get a job at PAL, you have to enjoy working with kids and you have to have a lot of patience.”
Persons interested can call the Southwest PAL at (215) 727-8181.