Marietta Police Athletic League (PAL) exists for the purpose of providing disadvantaged children with mentoring and quality out-of-school programing. That, in and of itself, is incredible, however, the fact that police officers are among those leading PAL programs, is next level. Children look up to the adults in their lives. When the adult is a police officer, the children are offered a fine example to emulate. What a great way to help kids stay in school and get ahead in life!
We put some questions to Marietta PAL Executive Director Daneea Badio-McCray to learn more about the work of this, our latest small grant recipient:
Kars4Kids: What’s Marietta like? What can you tell us about your demographic—the kids you serve?
Daneea Badio-McCray: Marietta PAL serves Cobb County youth, ages 5-17. Nearly 70% of PAL families are very low-income, with an average family of 3 earning less than $30,000 annually. Three out of every 5 kids come from single parent homes.
Kars4Kids: When did you start the Marietta PAL and who, or what, was the inspiration behind the founding of your chapter?
Daneea Badio-McCray: Since 2007, Marietta PAL has served nearly 7,000 school-aged youth and their families. PAL’s Founder is Major Michael Goins of the Marietta Police Department. Marietta PAL’s purpose is to provide exceptional youth development programming that builds strong character while focusing on the positive mental and physical health and wellbeing of disadvantaged youth who might not otherwise have access to such quality youth programming. PAL provides up to 500 Cobb County youth, ages 5-17, with affordable access to daily afterschool, summer camp, sports, recreation, art & academic programming.
Kars4Kids: For those not in the know, how does PAL work? What is the extent of the involvement of local police officers in your programs and their administration?
Daneea Badio-McCray: Marietta PAL utilizes exceptional staff, officers, facilitators, program partners, and proven curricula to consistently deliver proven success. Major Goins and other law enforcement serve on PAL’s Board of Directors. Officers have also assisted with leading programs like basketball or assisted with programs like boxing and martial arts. Officers also participate regularly in PAL-sponsored events like the annual Back to School Bash and Holidays Around the World gift-giving events.
Kars4Kids: Can you give us an overview of your afterschool program? It seems very comprehensive. We like your focus on education.
Daneea Badio-McCray: PAL Afterschool operates during the school-year from 3-6pm. The program includes homework help and tutoring; daily health and fitness; and rotates bi-weekly through a variety of sports.
Kars4Kids: How big a part does mentoring play in your programming and how does it play out in practice?
Daneea Badio-McCray: Weekly mentoring sessions are held utilizing the BrainWise curriculum which teaches youth to make smart decisions. PAL kids are paired with mentors to participate in mentoring sessions followed by observation sessions, where mentors further monitor mentees’ implementation of smart thinking skills learned during activities like martial arts, dance, boxing, and more.
Kars4Kids: Martial arts seem to be a specific focus of what you offer at Marietta PAL. Why are martial arts important, and what types of martial arts do you offer?
Daneea Badio-McCray: PAL offers American-style Karate, taught by Sensei Don Bourgeois. This form teaches discipline, respect, self-esteem, teamwork, perseverance and so much more.
Kars4Kids: You have a summer camp for grades 1-12. Is this a day camp? What kind of activities do you offer?
Daneea Badio-McCray: Our summer camp is a day camp that takes place in June and July with full-day programming from 7:30am to 6pm. PAL summer camp offers breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks along with the following activities (and more!):
Kars4Kids: Can you share a success story about one of the youngsters in your program?
Daneea Badio-McCray: Success is best told by our parents. Here is a note we received from one such parent:
Good afternoon. This letter is well overdue. Just wanted to thank you and all the staff at Pal. Special thanks to Mrs. Ebonette and the karate instructor. This program has really worked with me as a single mother financially and provided an exceptional summer program for my children as well as karate classes at a price I can afford. The summer program kept my oldest two children busy and current with academies during summer break along with learning different sport’s. Daija was overjoyed being able to go and read to a younger crowd, while DJ enjoyed playing sports and meeting kids he could relate to. Isaiah was all for karate at first until he realized it was hard work. This program really cares about the future of our children. Teaching self-respect, respecting others and taking responsibility for your own actions. Just had to let you all know that we’re very grateful and thankful to have met all of you. You have truly made a difference in our lives. Thanks.
Kars4Kids: What’s next for Marietta Police Athletic League?
Daneea Badio-McCray: PAL is excited about continuing to grow our programs to serve more youth. As PAL continues to grow our Marietta Shamrock Shuffle 5K event held each March on the Marietta Square, raising more funding will position PAL to serve more youth. PAL also looks forward to adding a baseball program and theater program in the near few years.