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By Steven Spencer
The Jerseyville Police Department’s T.E.E.N.S. program is hosting their first Annual Pickleball Tournament next month, Sept. 24 and 25, at the Lions Club Park Courts.
The goal of the T.E.E.N.S. program, which stands for teaching, empowering, encouraging and navigating situations, is to help educate students throughout Jersey CUSD 100 on multiple subjects including drug abuse, bullying, and internet safety.
The outreach program is led by School Resource Officer Seth Tefertiller who is using a modern approach to promote a stronger relationship between the youth in the community and the police department.
“We do an eight-week program that covers a range of topics including citizenship, how to deal with emotions, conflict resolution, tobacco products, drugs and alcohol, all of those types of things,” Tefertiller said.
Through activities like a leprechaun investigation with elementary school kids, Officer Tefertiller is trying to help the kids understand what goes into making a police report and become more comfortable interacting with police officers.
“We’re interacting with the kids in a positive manner, so they can see a police officer in a more human light,” Tefertiller said.
Tefertiller said a lot of younger kids have negative beliefs about officers because they’ve only interacted with them in bad ways, but the positive interaction in the classroom can completely flip their idea of what a police officer is.
“Sometimes there are things said that make kids feel less comfortable with officers,” he said. “But when they see who we really are and we have these positive interactions it can be huge. Sometimes these kids don’t have a whole bunch of people who are rooting for them. These positive interactions can be the thing that really helps them. Getting to know these kids on a more personal level by interacting with them almost every day, it helps to build those positive relationships that everybody needs.”
The positive interactions can help with more than just the kids’ opinions of officers. By building a more personal relationship with the kids, Officer Tefertiller said he’s able to offer them support when something is wrong.
“Since I get to know these kids on a more personal level there’s been a couple of times when I’ve identified that there was something that wasn’t right,” he said. “That could have been a big deal if something wasn’t addressed.”
Officer Tefertiller said they’re trying to build on the successes from last year and continue expanding the program. Events like the pickleball tournament will help the department continue to improve the T.E.E.N.S. program and contribute to scholarships.
Sign-up sheets for the pickleball tournament are available at the Jerseyville Police Department and online through the @jpdteens page on Facebook.