Atlantic Prevention Resources, a local nonprofit agency that provides tobacco, alcohol and other drug prevention programs as well as outpatient addiction treatment, in collaboration with the Pleasantville Police Department and the Middle School of Pleasantville, coordinated a Pizza with Police event at the middle school for the entire seventh grade, about 250 students, on Wednesday, June 13.
The Police Department sent many officers throughout the day who interacted with the students in an intimate classroom setting. Students enjoyed engaging in casual conversation with the officers, several of whom attended Pleasantville schools.
Students asked questions including: “What’s it like to be a police officer?” “What are the best and worst parts of the job?” and “What is the training like to become an officer?”
Several bilingual officers spoke to students in Creole, French and Spanish. Officers asked students about ideas to improve police-youth relations and students said they liked events like this and National Night Out and suggested interacting with younger students at recess or lunch.
Local pizzerias including Pizza Di Roma and Marco Polo donated pizzas and provided a discount for the rest.
Pizza with Police was organized as the culmination of a 12-week, evidenced-based substance use and violence prevention program called Life Skills Training provided to the seventh-grade students from February to June. As part of this program, APR collaborated with the Pleasantville police for two lessons provided by officers relating to gun safety and gang awareness.
APR receives funding from the Atlantic County Youth Services Commission to provide LST in Pleasantville and Atlantic City.
"This event could not have taken place without the support of the Pleasantville School Board, Principal (Rayna) Hendricks and Chief of Police (Sean) Riggin,” said LST staff member Lisa Catalano. “And we could not have arranged this without Mary Gillespie at the middle school and Lieutenant Stacey Williams, who recruited a diverse group of officers to participate."
Participating officers included Sgt. Boone, Lt. Zyckowski and officers Antoine, Aurelus, D’Arcangelo, Fontana and Mabkhouti.