Big changes coming to Jacksonville PAL center

5-year plan seeks to revitalize and expand

By Marques White - Reporter
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As experts debate the effect of youth centers and programs on the reduction of violent crime in certain communities, the Westside Police Athletic League Center, which has historically helped reduce violent crime in the nearby community, has implemented a five-year plan to expand and revitalize its facilities.

The PAL Center at Mallison Park will be expanding its academic assistance programs, life skills instruction classes and athletic programs.

When PAL took over Mallison Park in 2004, there was a 35 percent reduction in violent crime, and organizers are hoping that the center will continue to point at-risk teenagers in the right direction.

PAL is also working on a campaign that aims to educate local parents and teenagers about how to register for the program because teenagers are not permitted to use the PAL resources unless they register.

"The problem is that PAL is an organization that wants to bring all the kids in, and sometimes they don't understand that we need to do a better job of communicating (that) we want all the kids in here, not just for sports, but for mentorship to help them with their schoolwork and for them to know we've got a place for them that cares for them here," Jacksonville PAL President Stephen Vining said.

JAX Pal serves more than 2,200 at-risk children every year at four locations. The program also helps bridge the gap between the community and the police by building trust.

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