Spring recess may mean school is out for the week. But it also pushes the Police Athletic League into high gear.
More than 600 children from 20 PAL chapters across the city came to the Ptl. Edward Byrne Center in Jamaica on Tuesday for the Tournament of Champions, part of a week-long schedule of sports, games, intellectual challenges and performing arts competitions geared to keeping students’ minds and bodies fit during the break from school.
Alana Sweeny, executive director for PAL in the city, and Joshlyn Perry, director of the Edward Byrne Center on Guy Brewer Boulevard, said activities for the week are geared toward students with various talents.
“There’s 3-on-3 basketball and double dutch jump rope,” Sweeny said at the Byrne Center. “But we also have introduced STEM principles, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, into our programs. So there are brain challenges. And we have groups doing egg drops competing to make packaging so that the egg doesn’t break when they drop it from heights.”
Edward Byrne was a 22-year-old rookie patrolman in the NYPD’s 103rd Precinct who was killed in the line of duty in 1988 about one mile from the building that now bears his name.
The Tournament of Champions likely would have appealed to the young officer.
In a recent interview, Lawrence Byrne said his kid brother had been a gifted athlete and was an avid outdoorsman.
Perry said activities for the remainder of the week would include a poetry slam, as well as something called Showstoppers, a day dedicated to singers, dancers and others with ability in the performing arts.
“Children have different abilities,” Sweeny said. “Our goal is to help everyone appreciate those different abilities.”
Perry said their facilities are large and varied enough to land them most of the citywide arts programs and competitions. But Sweeny said the travel to various sites this week also is taken into consideration.
“Very often the children we serve don’t get out of their neighborhoods a lot,” she said. “Things can be different from neighborhood to neighborhood. We think it’s important that the children can appreciate those differences.”
Tionne Dixon, 11, and Jordyn Owens, 10, both of Jamaica, represented the Edward Byrne Center in the double dutch competition, and generously shared their expertise with observers.
“You have to make sure you jump in at the middle of the rope,” Jordyn said. “And you have to keep your knees up.”
“And you have to keep rhythm so you jump in at the right time,” Dixon added.
Asked if they were having a good time, they let out a simultaneous and resounding “Yes!”
Perry reiterated that the primary aims are to keep the children physically and intellectually active, while meeting and mingling with their peers form different neighborhoods and backgrounds.
But she also said there are some bragging rights at stake among the various chapters participating.
“It’s still a competition,” she said, beaming with pride at her charges. “Every group still wants to win.