LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Louisville Metro Police program that strives to create lasting community relationships is also helping to boost kids' self-esteem.
The Police Activities League (PAL) has been offering self-defense classes for kids who might be the target of bullying or just need a confidence boost.
"I'm passionate about it, and I have just really look forward to an opportunity to train with kids and kind of work with some of the kids in the community," Det. Cole Gibson said.
Known as "Coach," Gibson said helping with PAL while doing what he loves makes it even sweeter.
The Muay Thai instructor works alongside other officers specializing in boxing, Jiu Jitsu and other self-defense disciplines.
"We see just people in their worst state as police officers; it's very rare that we get to have a lot of positive reactions," Gibson said. "At this point, we just, we get to spend time with some kids and hopefully be there and maybe provide a little mentorship, or a little positivity, that they can, they can help, you know, build their confidence."
Confidence boosting -- Program Director Rick Polin said that's why they created the class.
He said the students were picked from other PAL programs because of low self-esteem or bullying.
"We've watched these kids come in from week one where they wouldn't make eye contact, or even, they were struggling really bad to shake your hand," Polin said. "And now it's like, this kind of hug, you know, 'what's up? Nice to see you.'"
Kids like Aiden Thorton started flourishing after only being in the program for six weeks.
The fourth grader said it "helped me by confident in things and learning stuff to defend myself," but said it was also cool to meet the police officers.
That organic relationship-building is exactly what PAL strives for, and the program hopes to carry out its mission one kid at a time.
I couldn't be more proud of the officers. I couldn't be more proud of the kids. It's just been a win. And it's exceeded all of our expectations. We're just loving it," Polin said.
He's also proud that despite a severe shortage of officers, several still volunteer for the program.
To find out how more about PAL, click here. To become a sponsor, visit this website.
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