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Michael is a 16-year-old Rizzo PAL kid who has been participating in activities at his local PAL center, in Port Richmond, for 10 years. He is currently a junior in high school, and attends Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter School.  Many of his family members attended Rizzo PAL, and that is why he started attending.

Throughout your 10 years in PAL, what kind of activities have you participated in?

A lot!  I’ve participated in basketball, wiffleball, golf, all kinds of sports…bowling.  I did the mock trial, Homework Club, I recently took part in PAL Day at City Hall, and now I am a Homework Club instructor here.. I help the kids out with their homework.

Tell us what your experience at PAL Day at City Hall was like…

I shadowed Chief Administrative Officer Christine Derenick-Lopez.  It was an awesome experience.  I got to meet so many important people, so it was such a real experience. It got me thinking some more about college and trade schools… it got me thinking more about the future and potential future jobs.

How has PAL helped you think about your future?

Well, other than PAL Day at City Hall, it has helped me a lot.  When I first started coming here I wanted to be a police officer, like Officer Ernie.  I wanted to help kids.  After being introduced to so many sports here, I thought about going into some sort of field with sports.  It has been a great spot throughout my childhood, and has kept me out of trouble.

Has Officer Ernie played a major role in your life?

Oh, definitely! He taught me how to play sports. He taught me right from wrong. He’s the best PAL officer I know, from all of the PAL centers.  He knows a lot and shares a lot.   If he wasn’t here, my life would be very different.  I’m glad that he is here and willing to help us kids. A lot of people aren’t like that.

How does PAL change kids’ perceptions of police officers?

PAL helps kids in that it shows them cops aren’t bad people.  They’re here for a reason; to help people. These police officers are here to keep us off the streets, out of trouble, and to help us find something to do that we might like.

What are some of your favorite things about PAL?

Just the fact that PAL is here – they bring us in and they help us.  It’s great knowing that someone is always there for us.  It’s fun.  You meet new people, do different things, and there is always something to do – even for a wide range of interests; there are sports, 24 Math, Homework Club.  It’s a community.  There are a lot of things going on outside of what I’d normally do, and I get involved a lot.

What is your favorite memory from your time in PAL?

I have a few. I remember when I made my first goal here, in soccer.  I was standing near the three point line on the basketball court, and it bounced off of my stomach and went right in.  So many of my friends come here too, and in 5th grade I remember we were all running on different teams, and we got to compete with each other.   That was fun too.

What would life be like without PAL?

If PAL wasn’t here, I’d probably be hanging out with the wrong people.  I wouldn’t know right from wrong.  I don’t think I’d be thinking about my future as much.  It has impacted my life so much.  It has helped me stay off the streets, and whenever I see another kid getting into trouble, I tell them to go to PAL.  I really don’t want to know what would happen without PAL.  It has kept me active and positive. It really helps a lot.

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