ATLANTIC CITY — On a Monday afternoon this month, Brown’s Park was filled with close to 200 city children and teens running around and playing outside.
It was a new sight for the city, bringing youths to the park to play and get involved in activities now that school is out for the summer.
Sgt. Will Santiago, the executive director of the Atlantic City Police Athletic League, holds a summer camp and a junior police academy for youths. The camp meets several times a week in the park and gives the children an activity to take part in.
“My goal was to dedicate at least three days out of the week to come to Brown’s Park,” Santiago said. “The most important thing is so the kids have a good time, run around and get some exercise.”
PAL, the junior police academy and children from recreation camps, ranging in age from 8 to 17, took over Brown’s Park on July 10 for Fun Day, playing on bouncy castles, competing in flag football, throwing flying discs and jumping rope.
The park reopened just in time for school’s end with a grand opening on Memorial Day. It was closed for several months in the colder weather undergoing $1.5 million in renovations to change the image of the park that used to be filled with homeless people and drugs.
Atlantic City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz said one of the things to maintain the park is to have positive programming and activities in the park, but also to ensure security and safety.
“That’s what it needs — it needs people in the park doing the right thing,” he said.
And movement in Brown’s Park isn’t the only action going on this summer for children. Shalanda Austin, an Atlantic City resident, leads a program called In My Care mentoring — but she brought people together at the start of summer for a “keep ’em off the streets” initiative.
Austin gathered more than 30 program representatives June 3 into one room at the All Wars Memorial Building in Atlantic City. The goal was to provide information and sign-up sheets to parents and guardians of city youths for different programs they can get involved in.
“It was really an initiative to have the children walk out of school and walk into a program,” she said.
The programs include mentoring groups, summer camps, sports and clubs such as In My Care, Xclusive Drill Team and the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City. It was the first event of its kind for the initiative, but Austin said she hopes it becomes annual.
“People always say ‘there’s nothing for kids to do,’” she said. “As I was doing research and reaching out to these different programs, I’m like, ‘there’s so much for kids to do.’”