Norman Police Activities/Athletic League (PAL)
The Norman Police Department is honoring nine exceptional staff and volunteers who group mentor for the Norman Police Activities and Athletic League (PAL). The summer camp for seventh and eighth-graders is designed to foster relationships that will bridge the gaps between law enforcement and youth while also exposing them to future careers in serving their community.
The three-week PAL camp blends classroom learning with hands-on activities to expose participants to a variety of topics including: fitness, patrol tactics, criminal investigations, traffic safety, self-defense, firearms safety, internet dangers, and weekly character values. Students also participate in field trips and service projects.
“These mentors have created a positive image of officers to children,” said Officer Ali Jaffery, PAL program coordinator. “Children are more willing to reach out to officers with issues that they face in school and life in general. The community as a whole has more respect for our efforts for reaching out to children.”
In addition to volunteering for the PAL program, many of the honorees build relationships with young people in the community by serving as resource officers at their local schools. Many of the honorees also serve in the Juvenile Intervention Program, which pairs officers one-on-one with at-risk youth.
“Each one of these mentors has a success story that was once deemed a ‘no-win’ situation,” Jaffery said. “They have given multiple chances to mentees because sometimes the mentees have never been given a chance to have someone believe in them.”
Officer Christopher Antwine is the school resource officer at Norman North High School. He serves on the bike team, crisis intervention team and is a mentor in the Juvenile Intervention Program. 2018 PAL Campers voted Antwine as the Favorite Officer at Camp. He spent time with approximately 50 students each morning warming them up for sports. Some of Antwine’s past PAL mentees seek out his guidance as their school officer at Norman North.
Austin Buonasera is a certified computer and mobile forensics investigator and recently began a position as a Reserve Cleveland County Deputy. He began volunteering as a PAL instructor when he was a Police Department intern. Buonasera continues to mentor one of his PAL youths through the Juvenile Intervention Program and assists with Wednesday Warriors, a mentoring program at Whittier Middle School. Buonasera often purchases food, clothing, bicycles or pays utility bills to help others in need.
Detective Tara Casillas is assigned to the Child Victim Unit at Mary Abbott Children’s House, a nonprofit that serves child-abuse victims. PAL campers affectionately refer to her as “camp mom.” Her mentees stay in contact with her and seek out her advice. Casillas is adept at diffusing difficult situations when campers won’t cooperate. She has mentored many young women through the Juvenile Intervention Program. She was praised for being a “voice for children who don’t have one.”
Sgt. Joel Formby is a school resource officer at Whittier Middle School. He has been working with children in the school system for over 20 years and is the founder of “Wednesday Warriors,” a mentoring program for boys at Whittier. Formby began volunteering for PAL last summer and is being recognized for his patience, guidance and exceptional work. Formby’s impact on youth spans several decades, and many former students who are now grown adults seek his guidance.
Sgt. Heather Glazier is the school resource officer at Norman High School and a two-year PAL Camp mentor. Glazier shows patience working with at-risk youth and is a mentor for the Juvenile Intervention Program. After a youth attempted to strike her during an incident at camp, Glazier chose to give the youth a second chance and encourage her rather than dismissing her from camp. The youth’s behavior not only improved, but she was honored at camp for her progress.
Master Police Officer Shelby Hanna is a school resource officer at Longfellow Middle School and a two-year PAL Program mentor. Hanna goes out of his way to help children in need. When one of the PAL students from his school was experiencing a crisis, the boy’s mother reached out to Hanna for help. Hanna has helped the family and become an informal mentor to the boy. There are many stories similar to this one in which Hanna has influenced a child’s life.
Master Police Officer Sean McKenna is a school resource officer at Alcott Middle School and joined the PAL program in summer 2018. McKenna immediately connected with the students and was involved in every aspect of camp. McKenna formed close bonds with children from his school who have continued to reach out to McKenna during the school year. “Due to his positive influence on children, Officer McKenna is respected among his peers as well as Norman Public Schools,” Jaffery said.
Jenna Odgers, a former intern for the Norman Police Department, is an Oklahoma City senior majoring in criminology and sociology at the University of Oklahoma. As a PAL mentor, Odgers was the first to arrive to welcome students to camp and the last to leave to ensure all students got home safely. She formed many mentor-mentee relationships at camp and impacted female youth in a positive way. Odgers, who plans to go into law enforcement, will use her experiences with PAL to impact many lives.
Lt. Marcus Savage has been the school resource officer at Irving Middle School and a three-year mentor for PAL. Savage is known for helping families in need and being a problem solver. He has regularly paid electricity bills so children could have air conditioning or helped fix vehicles so parents could drive to work. Savage was recently honored as a local hero by Channel 5 News and donated the $1,000 prize he received to Irving Middle School. Savage is beloved by mentees and families because of his kindness.
About the Program: Norman’s Police Athletic/Activities League (PAL) serves seventh and eighth-grade students in Norman Public Schools. The purpose of PAL is to foster relationships that will bridge the gaps between law enforcement and youth while also exposing them to future careers in serving their community, while participating in activities.