Up Center and Portsmouth Police join forces to combat gang violence by mentoring kids and teens


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth Police and the Up Center are calling on you to take back the community.

They’re looking for mentors to help steer youth in the right direction.

The two organizations are working together because of an increase in gang violence involving middle and high school students in Portsmouth. So far, about 20 Portsmouth police officers have signed up to be mentors.

Helping children and families is a mission more than 130 years in the making at the Up Center. That includes their “Team Up” mentoring program.

“It’s a community-based, evidence-based mentoring program in the southside of Hampton Roads where we match mentees and mentors,” said Jessica Simmons, Team Up Program supervisor. “Every child is not a bad child. Every child has the possibility of having a bright future. That’s what I believe that this program will offer hope.”

Before the pandemic, the Portsmouth Police Department and school division reached out to the Up Center to work together.

“[It was] due to the increase in juvenile gang activity in both the middle schools and high schools in Portsmouth,” said Director of Youth Services Sharon Reams.

Reams says the pandemic put things on hold. Now, they are back at it.

“It gives the community the opportunity to see law enforcement officers interacting with the community in a non-enforcement situation,” said Reams.

More importantly, it will help the children.

“We believe every child is one caring adult away from a success story,” said Reams. “It only takes a little bit of time and positive attention from an adult to make a huge impact on a child’s life.”

You can learn more about becoming a mentor by clicking here. There is an orientation and training process, as well as passing a background check. Plus, they ask mentors to spend at least two hours every week with their mentee.

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