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Children build connections with police officers at track meet on UNLV’s campus

What happens when you combine schoolchildren, police officers, and a running track? An event quite unlike most calls police go on.
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 12:30 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - What happens when you combine schoolchildren, police officers, and a running track? An event quite unlike most calls police go on.

At a police-sponsored event at UNLV’S Myron Partridge Track Stadium Saturday, mentorships formed between cops and kids alongside dreams for attending college. That’s because, for many students, an event like this marks their first time on a college campus, and an opportunity to picture themselves there.

“Does it make you want to maybe go to UNLV one day?” FOX5 asked one student participating named Maurice Lowe. “Yes,” he replied.

That’s exactly the type of response this event, sponsored by LVMPD’s Police Athletic League of Southern Nevada, is intended to inspire.

“And it kind of gives them a tour of the school, cause we all live here, so I think that’s really cool,” said Maurice’s mom, Donna Thomas.

Competition was fierce, as it was also a track meet for students in grades third through fifth. They were all students of underserved schools that were selected by the Police Athletic League of Southern Nevada.

“What we do, is we go to the area command for Metro, Henderson, and North Las Vegas, and we ask them to pick a school that might be needy or underserved,” said Walt Walters, board member and founder of the Police Athletic League of Southern Nevada. “Pnce we establish a relationship between a police officer and a young kid, we’ve found in studies, even at this early age, it lasts a lifetime.”

Thomas said she felt that intention was successful at Saturday’s event.

“I feel like it’s beneficial, so kids can see the police, and interacting and things like that, so they won’t, ya know, be scared to approach,” said Thomas.

UNLV also used the event as a chance to educate families, and inspire children to work toward attending college.

“So we have a parent information table, where we share information about UNLV and answer questions for parents and families who are interested in having their students go to college,” said Devan Harris, Associate Director for Early Outreach at UNLV. “We have fun college readiness games like Loteria today, and so students are learning college vocabulary terms and just different aspects of the college campus.”

For the past several years, UNLV has opened its campus for police athletic league events and provided college readiness programming for participants and their families.