The Police Athletic League’s after-school programs always could be counted on for sports and arts instruction.

But this year, PAL is putting an increased focus on education, particularly with respect to science, technology, engineering and math.

The goal, according to PAL Executive Director Alana Sweeny, is to combat an achievement gap in low-income communities.

“They’re really learning hands on, and they’re not even realizing they’re learning,” Sweeny said.

On a recent Friday at PAL’s Sotomayor Community Center in the Bronx, fourth and fifth graders were being taught how to reduce, reuse and recycle, while in another room second and third graders were learning about air by drawing pictures and performing experiments.


Kids at the center also do homework, participate in fitness and arts activities, play games and look for robins, ladybugs and other nature.

“You question the environment around you, and you start to wonder what causes things, why things are the way they are,” said Cesar Nina, one of the public school teachers hired by PAL this year with the help of city funding.

PAL opens up three new centers

The Police Athletic League opened up three new centers this year: the Sotomayor Community Center in the Bronx, Pathways Prep in Queens and New World Prep in Staten Island. There are now 20 PAL centers across all five boroughs.

What is PAL?

In 1914, the then-commissioner of the NYPD, Arthur Woods, asked his police officers to do more than just fight crime: He wanted them to help some of the neediest New Yorkers in their precincts. Woods was particularly concerned about the lack of open space for New York City children to play.

Today, the organization Woods founded is now known as the Police Athletic League, a nonprofit that helps set up safe recreation areas, after-school programs and mentoring.

Once a month, Metro will feature updates about what the Police Athletic League is doing and how it is working to help make New York City streets healthier and safer.

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