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Kids play basketball in the Police Athletics League program. This program is designed as an after school program for school kids to keep them off the streets. Credit: Albert Sun

When the Division of Public Safety and the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia opened a new PAL center just a few blocks away from Penn’s campus in April 1997, Penn Police were hoping to help guide the area’s youth while keeping them safe.

And over a decade after the opening of the Tucker PAL center, increased support from the entire Penn community has helped keep their message strong.

Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said the Penn community has helped Tucker PAL succeed by embracing and supporting the activities of the center.

Penn Athletics has opened its facilities, including the Palestra and Franklin Field, to provide youth registered with Tucker PAL a place to participate in recreational sports.

The Department of Recreation also opens the rock-climbing wall, located in Pottruck Gym, several times per year for the center.

According to Tucker PAL Director Cassandra Parks-DeVaughn, fraternities and sororities have been involved with the organization by assisting as tutors in the homework club and computer program the center offers.

She added that Greek organizations have also assisted with coaching flag football games and setting up meetings with pro-sport athletes.

Interfraternity Council President and Wharton senior Shawn Woodhull said the fraternities and sororities that have been most involved with PAL include Phi Kappa Sigma — also known as Skulls — Kappa Alpha Theta and Sigma Delta Tau.

Penn’s Business Services has embraced Tucker PAL by supporting some of the center’s main events, Rush said.

She added that Business Services recently opened Penn’s Class of 1923 Ice Rink and found a sponsor to help offset the cost of equipment and food for an event there.

According to Parks-DeVaughn, Penn Police play a major role in the day-to-day operations of the Tucker PAL center.

She said officers often speak with and participate in various mentoring programs like Positive Images and Boys to Men with the PAL youth. Whenever there is a PAL event at the University, she said, Penn Police are there to help support and mentor the youth.

The Police Athletic League was founded in 1947 and is a non-profit organization that provides educational and recreational programs for children and youth between the ages of six and 18 years old during non-school hours.

There are over 635 youth currently registered to the Tucker PAL center, which is located on 4614 Woodland Ave. at the Alexander Wilson School.

Rush said the University’s support of Tucker PAL, both by providing an endowment and paying the salaries of the Penn officers who run the center, is important to University President Amy Gutmann’s vision of local engagement.

“We’re helping the parents lead the child towards college and at the same time keeping them safe,” Rush said.

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