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Goal! Alexandria Police and Sheriff’s Office join Latino kids to close summer soccer camp

More than a dozen Alexandria Sheriff’s deputies and police officers played soccer in the blazing heat with about 30 Latino kids yesterday.

It was the last day of the Capital Youth Empowerment Program‘s second annual summer soccer camp at AlexRenew’s Limerick Field. Every Wednesday since June 26, kids who can’t get to the field are picked up by van. Before they play soccer, the kids are given an hour’s worth of the El Camino sexual health program before being let loose on the luscious soccer field.

“We talk about about not doing drugs, about better choices in the life,” said 16-year-old Max Martinez, a rising junior at Alexandria City High School. “It’s worth it. This field is better than the one at school.”

Fredy Martinez (no relation), a substance abuse counselor for Alexandria City Public Schools, is a facilitator/coach for the program.

“We deliver the message of avoiding teen pregnancy and to have a healthy lifestyle without compromising their futures,” he said.

Deputy Carlos Canas is a gang and intel investigator for the city, and said that gangs are active in the city.

“It’s never easy, especially when kids are not in school,” Canas said. “And we all know what happens in our city when it comes to gangs, but lately it’s been active. However, our job is to be out here like today and be proactive, try to show them that we’re here to help and to prevent them from even ever joining a gang.”

Program coordinator Isaac King said that summer camp recruitment will start earlier next year, and that the program has grown largely through word of mouth.

“We want kids to learn about decision making,” King said. “And we want to broker better relations with the police department, so that when the police see the kids on the street, outside of the program, they have relationships with the kids, because they were their coaches and played soccer with them.”

All students are eligible to participate in the program, but it’s geared toward Latino youth.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to engage with kids,” said Chief Deputy Shahram Fard. “If I came out here in uniform, they would not talk to me. But if I come in here and talk to them like this (in workout clothes and soccer cleats), they’ll talk.”

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