LEWISTON — “Oh, man. I’m up next. I can hit. I can hit.”

That’s the kind of enthusiasm shown by several dozen children from communities in all parts of Maine who participated Saturday in the Kids ‘n Cops on Campus activities at Bates College.

“It was a very successful day,” said William Burney, director of the Bangor office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “We accomplished just what we set out to do, which was to give these kids an opportunity to experience some new things, make some new friends, to interact with law enforcement in a positive way, to experience some positive mentors, and to get a real good look at a class-act college campus. All are things these kids don’t have opportunities to get.”

Burney, a former mayor of Augusta, organized and supervised the event with Noel March of the U.S. Marshals Service. The event is sponsored by HUD and numerous law enforcement agencies.

He said the young people especially enjoyed the campus tour. They were asked who would like to attend Bates, and hands went up.

“That was the aspiration aspect that we hoped to elicit from them,” Burney said, “to have them see what they could be when they grow up.”

Participating youngsters included new Americans and Native Americans, mostly middle-school age. They were accompanied by many local, state and federal law enforcement personnel who, along with Bates student athletes, mentored and coached them through a day of physical activities such as relay races, soccer and ultimate Frisbee.

Bill Burney said the Kids ‘n Cops on Campus format promotes values that are keys to healthy communities, fitness, teamwork, leadership, mentoring, friendship and personal growth.

The young participants are from families that receive HUD housing assistance. They traveled from as far away as Presque Isle where a bus left at around 5:30 a.m. Saturday with young people, including members of the Micmac Nation.

“These kids will benefit not only from physical activity and making new friends, but also from close, positive and friendly interactions with local police,” Burney said.

He emphasized that the college location, and campus tours given for the youths by the Bates College Office of Intercultural Education, “will help them envision themselves enrolled in a college.”

The day’s program began at 9 a.m. when the kids divided into six groups. They were given T-shirts of different colors to identify the teams and they rotated at half-hour intervals among several activity stations.

The randomization of team assignments mixed all sizes and skills, and provided a basis for making new friends on the playing fields. Some young people with impressive soccer skills didn’t fare as well when they moved to the Frisbee station.

All the kids found common ground when they were introduced to “Addy,” a Labrador retriever trained for explosives detection. Addy and Inspector Michael Cherry of the Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service, They are based in Boston and they serve New England. Homeland Security personnel and vehicles from Boston, Manchester, N.H., and Bangor were at the Lewiston event.

Numerous other law enforcement vehicles were on hand with personnel who allowed the youngsters to sit inside and activate lights, horns and sirens.

Cities represented were Lewiston, Auburn, Portland, Westbrook and Bath. There was a Coast Guard vehicle as well as a Maine State Police SUV and a new Crisis Negotiation command center truck.


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