Four interns and two Everett Police officers presented to the School Committee on Monday night about the remarkable results achieved in relationships between adult police officers and teen-age high school students of color over the past three months.
Four Everett High students – Jazlyn Previlon, Kayla Cadet, Nick Pereira and Samuel Desir-Mafouana – spent the last three months with Officers Williamson and Ramunno in a paid internship funded by the Everett Public Schools (EPS) as a Pilot program. The students and officers met twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays for the past three months discussing hot button issues amongst themselves and with other community members and elected officials. Sometimes the discussions would last more than three hours, and many times it was uncomfortable.
The tenor of young people in Everett – particularly those of color – in regards to the police is quite negative most learned. Even in the group at the beginning – with three Black participants and one Latino participant – there wasn’t a great start, but everyone’s mind was changed in the end, they said.
“Early on one of our interns looked at me right in the eye without flinching and said, ‘I don’t like you and don’t trust you because you are a white police officer,’” said Ramunno, who is white. “To start this at that point and go forward and see the success we have had together is truly remarkable. It’s proof we need each other to really move forward as a community.”
Williamson, who is Black, said the conversations were quite honest and forthright and civil, and everyone was willing to hear one another. That, he said, is what made it groundbreaking and unlike any other police-youth program he’s seen before.
“When you’re having discussions about police brutality, racial discrimination and injustice, it is uncomfortable, but we are all doing this to become better people and this is what it teaks to move the needle forward.”
One of the major reasons the four interns got involved so deeply is that they said they were heavily influenced about the police by social media – which they said was very skewed to the negative. All said they wanted to draw their own conclusions, and found that the information they got on social media didn’t apply at all times.
“Coming into the internship, I was nervous and scared,” said Pereira. “I really got to see another perspective and come up with my own conclusions rather than to depend on what I see on social media. I developed a lot of respect for the officers.
Said Desir, “I felt police officers had a personalities that were authoritative and were cold hearted and that is what is said a lot on social media. As I spent more time around these officers, I began to have more of an informed perspective.”
Previlon said she often finds that social media shapes the attitudes of young people about the police, but that experiences like this could change that.
“Social media played a big role on how we viewed the police and what we thought of them,” she said. “This internship helped us get to know them on a personal level. I got to know they aren’t all the same and not all bad people…I think Everett is doing a good job in working alongside the community, especially the police force.”
Cadet said her opinions came from a bad experience with the police, and also by social media. She came into the internship without a lot of trust or respect for the police, but that changed 180 degrees by the end, she said.
“I actually had a bad experience with the police,” she said. “People of color are taught not to trust the police because at the end of the day, we can only survive on our own means. For me, that has definitely changed with this internship.”
Added Pereira, “As a kid I was very scared and fearful of the police because I always heard they would take us away and send us back where we came from. When I came to this internship, there was this level of respect and I learned you shouldn’t be automatically fearful and you get a new outlook on it that you don’t necessarily get at home.”
All four students said they not only changed their perspectives, but also now they do their best to beat back the unfounded stereotypes and negativity towards the police that is prevalent in their peers.
“Some people aren’t going to listen,” said Cadet. “Some people will think the police officers are just terrible people no matter what. We can’t help those people…I’m going to keep advocating for the police officers and letting people know what I learned…I would say a few of my friends have said I support Blue Lives Matter and I’m not part of Black Lives Matter anymore. They say that I’ve betrayed them as a Black woman.
“I have one friend that fore the live of her wouldn’t listen to me,” she continued. “That’s her decision and it’s her life…I’m happy I’m educated on this and happy I’m here because if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”
Member of the School Committee were blown away by the presentation from the police and the interns, unanimously.
“I’m so impressed with these four students, how they’re sitting here and so open about where your mind was and where your mind is now,” said Member Millie Cardillo. “This speaks volumes, volumes. I’m so proud. I got goosebumps just listening to you tonight.”
Said Chair Frank Parker, “A couple of years ago this wouldn’t have been possible. What we’ve heard here tonight is groundbreaking and I look forward to hearing more of this and expanding the program.”
•Community Engagement Manager
Current Chelsea School Committeewoman Jeanette Velez has been hired as the new Community Engagement Manager for the Everett Public Schools, staring on July 6, according to Supt. Priya Tahiliani.
Velez has served for many years in early childhood education, being the director of the Chelsea-Revere Family Network. She is also in her fifth term on the Chelsea School Committee. She will help to engage and interface with the community, families, local businesses and community-based organizations.
The Everett Public Schools summer learning and engagement programming is fast filling up, Supt. Priya Tahiliani said.
The bulk of the program is for grades K-8, and is located at four schools in the district this summer – including the Parlin, Lafayette, Keverian and Whittier Schools. Already they have 654 students signed up to participate, and the engagement programs are also filling up fast.
Summer learning with Everett teaching staff will be in the mornings, and the enrichment/engagement activities will be in the afternoon.
The program is completely free, and there are no registrations necessary. An adult only needs to accompany the child to the first day of the program to sign a waiver. The activities begin on July 6.