Text and Photos by Ali Sardar
Spending a Saturday morning in a classroom is not something most kids want to do. So why did 110 kids between 9 and 17 years old in Lawrenceville, Georgia, do that in mid-May?
They received basketball instruction from retired NBA stars and learned how to deal with police, tense situations on the street and about Georgia law playing Juvenile Justice Jeopardy.
“Young people are learning about the law, juvenile justice and police … from media, family and friends [and] it’s all wrong,” said Steve O’Reilly, staff attorney for Strategies for Youth, which originated the game and takes it on the road.
This is really a big discussion for young people to have “in disguise as a game,” he said. Strategies for Youth is a policy and training organization that works to improve relations between police and youth.
“We actually customize the game to every locale,” said Lisa Thurau, executive director. “We are making this version of the game focus on recent events, such as where kids had BB guns and got shot.” According to O’Reilly, this event in Lawrenceville, a northeastern Atlanta suburb, is the first time that no police officers have participated.
The youngest group, the 9- and 10-year-olds, are livelier and more active than the older groups. They also seem more educated on how to interact with a police officer. One young boy said he had first completed the program two years ago, which amazed Thurau.