BRENTWOOD -- While national attention is focused on how to protect students while on school campuses, Brentwood Police Officer Roger Wilson said that he is also mindful of the growing youth violence that occurs between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
"So much violence happens with our youth after school," Wilson said.
Wilson, local educators and Brentwood parents will soon rest somewhat easier when the Brentwood PAL (Police Activities League) Youth Drop-in Center opens Jan. 14. Brentwood will become the second PAL to operate a youth center in Contra Costa County, according to Wilson.
The center will serve youth from 10 to 14 years of age, which Wilson noted is the target age for teaching about bullying and violence prevention. He added that it will be an alternative gathering place for students from single-parent or busy, working parent households who may get into trouble or hang out on the streets after school before their parents get home from work.
"Our goal is to make the room look like a living room or a safe haven," Wilson said of the center, which is at the back of the Edna Hill Middle School campus near the gym.
Most of the center's items and supplies, including games, arts and craft items, furniture, DVDs and a study table, were donated to the Brentwood Police Department's PAL program. They are also hoping to provide healthy snacks for attendees by applying for grants.
Wilson also said he hopes that the center becomes another option for kids who often go home and play violent video games in isolation. A PlayStation and an Xbox will be available at the center, but they will be used under adult supervision.
"We have to change the games that kids play," Wilson said.
In addition to offering tutoring, sports and a variety of activities, Wilson also will transport youth to extracurricular activities. This includes PAL's bowling, karate, golf and basketball programs.
"They will have somewhere that they can go after school to have the resources they need," said PAL mentor coordinator Laura Ceja.
To attend the center, students must join the National Association of Police Athletic/Activities League's mentoring program. Currently, Ceja said that there are about 10 adult mentors who volunteer an hour of their time once or twice a week, but they hope to have 30 to 50 mentors in the future.
"Some seniors from Summerset have shown interest in mentoring. Our seniors have so much knowledge and wisdom to give to our young people," Wilson said.
The center will also provide a place for the mentors to informally meet with the students involved in PAL, according to Ceja. It will differ from the former PAL center that was more like a day care and not geared toward mentoring youth.
"The kids can come in and sit on the couch and talk," Wilson said. "They can talk about bullying incidents. Kids can have someone to support them."
Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Brentwood PAL Youth Drop-in Center will open at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 14 on the Edna Hill Middle School campus, 140 Birch St. It will be open weekdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. for youth from 10-14 years of age who are involved in Brentwood PAL's mentoring program. For more information, call 925-809-7768.