ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Welcomed by cheers, clapping, and a handshake from former NFL football player and Super Bowl champion Roland Williams, more than 100 kids from the Rochester area exited buses Friday afternoon at Northwest College Preparatory School, ready for a day of meeting police officers during Williams’ Champion Academy’s “Stop the Violence Day.”
“Common sense and the research says that when you spend time getting to know people it helps to build more successful and positive relationships and so we want to make that happen in real life,” Williams said.
The year-long academy empowers young people grades 6th through 10th and provides them extreme mentoring. On this day, Rochester Deputy Police Chief Wayne Harris said they are receiving a rare opportunity.
“A lot of these kids have never had the opportunity to speak to a police officer, to get to know that person’s first name, to find out where they came from and some of their life experiences,” Harris said.
Williams said these children aren’t exempt from the feelings the violence in this community brings.
“A lot of pain, a lot of tears and that’s the unfortunate part,” Williams said. “A lot of the same challenges that are happening now and people are talking about now have been going on for a long time. So our students are feeling pain, some of our students here have lost family members to the recent shootings, so it’s just sad. Violence, there is no winner when it comes to violent crimes, so we want to address that head on today and talk about it.”
That’s why Harris said it’s important for them to build a bond with officers.
“Police officers are human beings too and the events that are impacting the entire United States, the events that are impacting the world right now, impact police officers as well as the citizens of the communities they serve,” Harris said.
With tensions high between officers and community members around the nation, Williams said the focus needs to be on building healthy relationships with each other before a tragedy occurs.
“I respect every person in this country who stands for whatever they want to believe in,” Williams said. “I believe a lot of the problems and challenges, we need to be proactive, to be involved before challenges happen, before there are bad relationships, before individuals make bad decisions.”