Police expand youth program to boxing

Stratford Police Lt. Melissa Niemiec, Nick Melita, Academy of Self Defense owner Martin Chisholm, and Officer Lawrence Castelot announce the opening of the Police Activities League boxing program on Sept. 16. Greg Reilly photo.

Stratford Police Lt. Melissa Niemiec, Nick Melita, Academy of Self Defense owner Martin Chisholm, and Officer Lawrence Castelot announce the opening of the Police Activities League boxing program on Sept. 16. Greg Reilly photo.

Stratford Police officially opened its new Police Activities League Boxing Program at the Academy of Self Defense on Main Street on Monday.

This PAL program is designed to bring Stratford youths, ages 12 to 21, off the streets and into the boxing facility to learn physical skills and life skills at the same time.

Academy of Self Defense owner Martin Chisholm, explained, “The physical part gets them out and provides relief from a sometimes troubled household. Move a muscle, change a thought,” is one of his core teachings he said. “The problems will still be there, but you’ll feel better.”

The program and activity “helps them with perseverance,” Chisholm said. “It’s a way to find oneself.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the program Mayor John Harkins thanked Chisholm for supporting Stratford’s youth, the police department and the PAL, and for having “a positive impact on kids.”

Stratford Police Special Services Lt. Melissa Niemiec, who is overseeing the expansion of the department’s PAL programs, said, “Our mission is to promote partnerships and trust between youth, police and the community through programs such as this boxing program as well as other athletic, educational or recreational activities.”

“Studies have shown that if a young person respects a police officer on the field or in a classroom, the youth will likely come to respect the laws the police enforce,” said Niemiec.

She emphasized that Stratford PAL depends on support and donations from the community so that these programs can be offered to the youths.

Stratford Police Officer Larry Castelot, a certified state law enforcement instructor who holds certification in USA Boxing, will be the program coordinator working with Chisholm. Castelot said at Monday’s opening that the program “helps build self esteem when (the youths) accomplish something. It’s good to be recognized.”

Stratford PAL also runs the Police Explorer Program, a Rifle Club, Straight Paths wellness program and has been getting more involved with POP Warner football and cheerleading, Niemiec said, and they are “hoping to get more involved with the various youth baseball and softball leagues and soccer teams.”

Nick Melita, a Stratford 21-year-old, spoke about how PAL and Chisholm have helped him with his life. Melita met Chisholm two years ago through the Straight Paths program, which brings kids in for a general fitness and wellness program, and goes beyond to provide friendship and constructive conversation. “I get rid of stress on a (heavy gym punching) bag and not in a street fight,” Melita said.

“There is nothing out there (on the streets) but not caring,” he said. “Here you feel loved and cared about. If I didn’t meet Martin I could have gotten into a lot of trouble.”

Niemiec said the PAL programs will be promoted through the schools and that youths may sign up through the police department or the PAL Desk at Academy of Self Defense, 3520 Main Street near Paradise Green. Youths and families may contact Officer Castelot directly at [email protected]

Stratford PAL is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and all donations must be made directly to the Stratford PAL at the Stratford Police Department, Niemiec said, to avoid others who may misrepresent themselves at PAL organizations. Checks may be mailed to Lt. Melissa Niemiec, Stratford Police Department, 900 Longbrook Avenue, Stratford, CT 06614.

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