PATERSON, NJ-  City and school officials gathered at the New Roberto Clemente School on Wednesday to announce the launch of two new initiatives aimed at keeping young people off drugs and inspiring them to consider careers in police work.

The Law Enforcement Against Drugs (LEAD) program is a kindergarten through 12th grade drug prevention education curriculum taught by specially-trained officers in the classroom while the Paterson Police Explorers Program will provide students 14-18 years old the opportunity to explore a career in police work.

LEAD is expected to launch in early November and will be conducted in classrooms in five city schools under the pilot program: The New Roberto Clemente School, Roberto Clemente School, Public School 12, the Urban Leadership Academy, and the Great Falls Academy.

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Calling the initiatives “ambitious” Mayor Andre Sayegh celebrated that they again show collaboration between the police department and the school district “for the benefit of our young people.”

“Programs like these have been dormant for too long, and we’re excited to bring them back.”

“The dangers of drug use have changed,” Superintendent Eileen Shafer said pointing specifically to the scourge of opioid abuse. “It’s not enough to tell students drugs are bad, we need to build an understanding that drugs can rob students of their dreams.”

“We also need to inspire them to achieve their promising futures,” Shafer continued.

The launch of both LEAD and the Paterson Police Explorers came about through the initiative of police officers Eddy Pichardo and Irsi Velez, Police Chief Troy Oswald said telling those gathered that the two came to him asking to take on the extra responsibility, and spent their own money and time to go through the required training.

“Paterson students should have the opportunity to make better decisions,” Velez said. “That’s what LEAD offers.”

Oswald said that he hopes another outcome arises from the launch of the Explorers program where participants will work alongside Paterson police officers learning the basics of working the scene of an accident, being part of an emergency response team, and life-saving skills like CPR.

“We want more youth from Paterson to join the police force and become leaders in our community, and we expect these programs will lead to that outcome.

With the event over Pichardo and Velez immediately put their training to the test meeting with several 8th students at the school and discussing the new programs with them.

“This is about preparing all of you to make the right decisions,” Pichardo told them before suggesting that he and all of his colleagues on the Paterson Police Department do their jobs to make the city better. “This is our city also,” he said.

“Together we can make it even better.”


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