DOWNINGTOWN — Members of the Downingtown Area School District (DASD) Making Connections program recently joined students from across the county for the Chester County Attorney’s Office Student and Law Enforcement Symposium.
Sponsored by District Attorney Deborah Ryan, this event is part of an ongoing effort to bring together teens and local law enforcement to discuss issues facing our society. Specifically, the program hopes to address the interactions between law enforcement and teens, especially those of color.
“These activities provide opportunities for natural dialogue between agents and students,” said Shanette Bernard, co-founder and advisor of Making Connections. “Through these connections, students and officers build trust, relationships, and stronger foundations for the future.”
The symposium included an overview of the criminal justice system, a panel discussion, role-playing scenarios, small group discussions and a pizza dinner.
“The [student] attendees of the law enforcement symposium had a unique opportunity to gain a different perspective on police officers through role-playing scenarios where law enforcement would have contact with teenagers,” said said Lakesha Costello, a teacher at Downingtown High School East. “Both parties were challenged to understand each other’s point of view with compassion and fairness. This event was a big step in bridging the gap between minorities and law enforcement in a positive way; it brings hope to both parties.
“It was wonderful to see students and law enforcement officers working together to create a space of inclusion and belonging,” said the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion of the DASD, Justin Brown. “For nearly three years now, the Making Connections program has enabled students across the district to connect with law enforcement and discover what they have in common. This is a real opportunity to dispel myths and continue to break down the stereotypes that separate us within our community.