PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – It seems like violence is impacting our communities every single day.
It’s a friendship that’s only been in place for a few months, but the bond between 13-year-old Piper and her mentor, Misty Holley, is already strong.
“It’s kind of crazy how I just met a total stranger and all of a sudden we’re best friends,” said Piper.
The two are paired up together through The Up Center’s mentorship program, and its partnership with local police departments.
Jessica Simmons, Team Up Program Manager, said, “We’re looking to be the bridge in the community, so we understand that there is a disconnect there and so why not pair our police officers with children to make a better future.”
Piper’s family submitted her name for the program, saying she was having some trouble at home and at school.
“I was having lots of trouble fitting in at school,” said Piper. “I’m a middle child in my family out of six kids, so it was hard to get the attention that I wanted, let alone needed.”
A few months ago, The Up Center called, saying they had a mentor match.
“I’m a police officer with the City of Portsmouth, I’m a sergeant for our community enhancement division,” said Portsmouth Police Sergeant Misty Holley. “One of the things we do is work with the community, hands-on, going to events, interacting with children at school and other things. So what I’ve done is take Piper with me to show her the positive aspects of being a police officer.”
The two go to community events, shop, find ways to give back, and more. Their favorite activity revolves around food.
“We like to eat sno-cones,” said Piper. “We have 250 flavors to get through, only have had four of them.”
Aside from the fun they have together, the program has really helped Piper.
“Her behavior has started to improve, she has started to become more mature,” said Piper’s mom, Danielle Park.
Piper said, “I’ve been more open with my feelings. I’m used to keep it all bottled down until I explode, so I’ve been able to express my feelings more.”
“Little by little, day by day, are the improvements and so Piper is improving in her behaviors and academics and that’s what we’re excited about,” said Simmons.
The Up Center has roughly 110 children and teens on the wait list for mentors. The majority are boys, so The Up Center is hoping more men will sign up to become mentors.
“When we’re a police officer and we have a mentee, we like to turn around and encourage that mentee to want to do more for their community and do more for the citizens in their community,” said Holley.
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