A Secret Superhero of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety0
On Saturdays from September through November, Kalamazoo area kids can be found on local football fields- playing football and participating in cheerleading. While it's clear these kids are learning the game and enjoying physical activity, the casual observer may not realize these participants are also taking positive actions in their lives.
How does this happen? This year, Kalamazoo's rocket football program, organized through New Level Sports, is under the influence of some special local folks. Lt. Anthony Morgan Jr. of Kalamazoo Public Safety and the Kalamazoo chapter of the Police Athletic League (PAL) are leading the way to impact area young people.
Lt. Morgan, volunteers along with other KDPS officers are participating in this year-round program, designed to help young people see police officers in a new light - as positive role models.
Lt. Morgan shared his belief that a strong partnership with the community can build trust and reduce crime.
"Not everyone is going to like us, but it's on us to build that relationship."
Why does Lt. Morgan devote his time to influencing the future generation of adults? "I had friends growing up that made poor choices. I wish I could have done more," he shared. "I really want to see young people make better decisions."
One can barely turn on the news today without hearing about strife and conflict between police officers and community members in neighborhoods throughout the United States. Lt. Morgan uses his charismatic personality and sincere interests in sports and those in our community to make connections with Kalamazoo youth.
Another major influencer in the PAL program is longtime rocket football coach Timeko Churchwell, a volunteer with the PAL program. Coach Churchwell has had his hand on the ball for 18 years, and he's a mentor to the newer football coaches in this program, like volunteers Devon Sigsbee and Fab Gaines. These coaches teach the kids about the sport while building relationships, but the program doesn't stop there. Throughout the year, Lt Morgan and his counterparts work to teach these kids personal growth skills like, time management, showing up on time, the importance of education, how to interact with people different than themselves and, as Lt. Morgan puts it, "how to be good human beings."
Lt Morgan grew up in Vineland, New Jersey, then received his Criminal Justice degree from North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. During his junior year at the university, he was recruited by Kalamazoo Public Safety to Kalamazoo. In testament to Lt. Morgan's drive and motivation, he doubled up on classes and graduated a year early to join KPS. In Kalamazoo, Lt. Morgan also underwent additional required training in the police academy, fire academy and through field training. He is also trained as a Medical First Responder.
According to Lt. Morgan, Kalamazoo's best feature is its people!
"There are so many people in the city, both young and old, doing positive things to impact the lives of others. There is a real sense of community here."
On a personal note, Lt. Morgan is married with two children with number three on the way in August. He and his family have a particular interest in martial arts and participating at the travel level. The family also enjoys hanging out with family and friends and talking about football.
If you know a child interested in playing rocket football while learning some positive lessons about life, teams are forming now. For information on how to participate or volunteer, please contact Timeko Churchwell at 269-329-9323 or Lt. Morgan at 269-337-8051.