This fall PAL embarked on an adventure. We decided to partner with our friends at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington (BGCSW) and their gang prevention/intervention program. The idea was simple, we would facilitate a girls’ group where young women could have a safe place to talk about challenges, life, relationships, etc. We would meet on a weekly basis for 8-10 weeks at Fort Vancouver High School.
Both myself and Erica Nicewonger (of BGCSW) were excited about this concept, but now I needed to find the right female officer to help us. That ended up being easier than I thought because the first officer that came to my mind was, Officer Katie Endresen, and before I could even finish pitching her the idea she was on board! Thus our journey began.
The first couple of meetings were typical of new groups. We were getting to know each other, building relationships. And for the first couple of meetings Katie showed up in plain clothes because it was her day off. No one ever asked what she did for a living, it just never came up.
Then in week three, Katie came as Officer Endresen for she was on shift that day and took a break to come to group. That week the conversations changed. The girls openly expressed that because she showed up in uniform, they were less likely to share as deeply. So we talked about it. We spoke about the power a uniform has on us and then Katie shared about being a woman on the police force. The conversation was phenomenal and from that moment on the group was solidified.
After 9 weeks of sharing and talking with each other, we did a short post survey to see what sort of impact was made if any. Here are some of the highlights we gathered:
In the end, the girls’ group was a huge success (and we hope to do another 8 week session in 2016 with the same group) and to celebrate our time together Beaches Restaurant generously donated a dinner for the group last Friday evening. Most of the girls had never been before and the service (as always) was spectacular. It truly made everyone’s evening. When we asked the girls what their favorite part was, they said, “Being able to eat a meal together as a family and have good conversation.”
So thank you Beaches for helping us celebrate our relationships and for your continued generosity in our community. Thank you Erica for helping us find the right group of girls to gather together. And thank you Officer Katie Endresen for investing in our teens, breaking down barriers, and showing our young people there is more to a police officer! Happy Holidays everyone!
Some pictures of time together: