Basketball brings students and cops together

Published 9:54 pm Thursday, November 3, 2016

Turlington Woods School students and Suffolk police officers last week played in a benefit basketball game for the United Way of South Hampton Roads.

“It was an effort to raise funds for United Way and to build a relationship with the police,” said Kinsey Bynum, the school principal.

“We could knock out two birds with one stone.”

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De’Borah Whitfield, a high school teacher at the school, heard of a similar program at another school in the area, and she decided to do it at Turlington.

“It’s the first of its kind,” Whitfield said.

Students were selected for the event based on their academic performances and overall behavior.

The student team, “VA HOOPS,” consisted of six students and player-coach Colemon Watford, a Turlington Woods middle school teacher.

“Hometown Heroes” consisted of six police officers and two volunteers.

Students participating in the game donated $2 apiece, while students in attendance donated a dollar.

Bynum served as the referee in the exciting game.

“He’s active in everything that we do, and it is great to have his support,” Whitfield said.

The VA HOOPS team was victorious, winning 73-58, led by Corey White’s 30-plus point performance.

“He was the star player,” said Ronald Brookins, a member of the student team.

Alyssa Pacheco, relationship manager for the Western Tidewater region at United Way of South Hampton Roads, who was also in attendance, thought highly of the benefit game.

“I think it is so amazing for the students at Turlington Woods to rally together and host a basketball game fundraiser for the United Way — allowing them the opportunity to give back to the community together as a team,” she stated in a press release. “It was also a great idea to partner with the City of Suffolk Police Department. Everyone looked like they were having a great time.”

After the game, Sgt. Andre Sparks spoke with the students on choices, consequences and making better decisions.

“The children are our future,” Sparks stated in an email. “President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, ‘We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.’ Being a positive role model for our youth is vital to their development, and in some cases our youth don’t have positive role models to look up to. When an officer can fill that void — build a relationship and make a difference in the life of a young person — the return on that investment is immeasurable, and it can impact that student, their family, their school, the community, even the world. It’s all about making a positive difference in somebody’s life!”

The students and faculty alike agreed the game helped develop a stronger bond between the students and the officers.

“Sometimes they have a negative stigma for the police,” Whitfield said. “This helps us put a lot of faith in our officers. Here in Suffolk, we have officers who are doing the job and more.”

“This helped us trust in a way — we got closer,” Brookins said.

For the near future, Bynum hopes to conduct a presentation with the entire student body to address behavior.

Additionally, Bynum said there are plans to host another basketball benefit game the following semester.

“We are very pleased with how well it went,” Whitfield said.