Marshall McCamish is a dad-to-be and he is getting a crash course in child care. 

“This is definitely giving me practice,” McCamish said as he played a game of Foosball with two 9-year-old boys at the Auburn PAL Center. 

The Auburn police officer’s focus is entirely children. He works six hours a day as the school resource officer (SRO)  and then runs the Police Activities League drop-in center after school lets out.

“Hey Khaalid, did you bring any homework?” McCamish asks Khaalid Ahmed shortly after the 10-year-old signed into the center after school. “Yes,” answered the fifth-grader at Park Avenue Elementary School. “Where’s it at?” asked McCamish. “We do homework here.”

“It’s at home,” answered Ahmed.

The PAL center on Chestnut Street was created to provide positive experiences for at-risk youth. The center is a former vacant building that was refurbished with the help of community members and local businesses. It sits in the middle of 10 acres of park space and is surrounded by basketball and tennis courts. A large playing field for games of flag football and kickball sits just out the back door.

The location is ideal for youths, but the inner-city area has been ideal for trouble as well. 

One quarter of all police calls for service come from one-half square mile of the PAL center, police Chief Phil Crowell said.

Before the center opened in March, children would often hang out in Pettengill Park, said 9-year-old Jack Duteau.  

“I come every day except Friday,” Ahmed said about the PAL center. “It’s a fun place to come,” said 9-year-old Kaeden Barefield. “My favorite is that the police are here,” he said. 

Community volunteers and police officers help youths with homework, play games and even help children make presents for special occasions such as Mother’s Day. “I try to come twice a week,” said volunteer Amanda Gagnon, a mother of two and full-time student. 

Auburn School Resource Officer Tom Poulin works alongside McCamish, but can always be found in the PAL kitchen working with students from the Franklin Alternative School. 

Students earn school credit while taking Poulin’s class Science through Cooking. 

“Overall, we have a good core group of kids that come around,” McCamish said. “More and more kids are signing up every day.”

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