Nourishing Bright Minds
Every day after school, more than 100 middle and high school students converge on the Lealman Sports Complex to participate in the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League (PAL) after school program.
Students hailing from this economically challenged community receive homework assistance and participate in structured activities ranging from sports to museum visits.
“It used to be that if we had behavioral issues at PAL, the most serious would occur after 5:30 p.m.,” recalled Neil Brickfield, PAL Executive Director. “It didn’t take us long to figure out that the kids were getting cranky because they were hungry. When we alleviated that problem, a lot of the behavioral issues went away.”
Now with your support, PAL prioritizes nutrition and even started a hydroponic farm that boasts 15,000 plants growing fresh produce that’s sold to raise money for PAL. Whatever is left over after meeting the needs of hungry PAL participants is then donated to local food banks to ensure nothing goes to waste.
“There is no grocery store for at least a mile in any direction, so providing fresh fruit and vegetables is important to us,” said Brickfield.
During the summer months, thanks to a partnership with the University of Florida, PAL students are also invited to participate in healthy cooking classes and help out at the farm. Focusing on hunger has allowed PAL participants to thrive and set big goals for themselves.
“I like PAL, because I have improved my grades and met new friends,” said Corinthian Spates, 14-year-old PAL participant. “I get to learn and see new things too. PAL has taken me camping and zip lining. We also went to a farm, visited the beach and Busch Gardens!”
Brickfield prioritizes academic performance and knows helping kids stay well nourished is essential to helping PAL students succeed. In this last year, PAL boasts having the most students ever make the honor roll including Spates who is committed to maintaining her grades so that she can become a lawyer.
“I have great kids come to PAL every day in a difficult neighborhood, and these kids want to go places in life,” said Brickfield. “We’re grateful to the people who are kind enough to help PAL succeed in its mission.”