CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - During the NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte there was a tip off of a new program geared to foster better relationships between young people and police.
The program is called Building Bridges Through Basketball. It kicked off Saturday at the Naomi Drenan Recreation Center. The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) is behind this program. Organizers believe basketball can unite. This Building Bridges through Basketball initiative has taken place in Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans and Detroit and now it has come to Charlotte.
"This is a very diverse place," RISE CEO Diahann Billings-Burford said. "And we know that with diversity comes the challenges of diversity."
40 youth participants from 12-14 have been identified. They will partner with at least eight officers from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) for 10 weeks for 2.5 hours each. They will have some basketball training and leadership activities that will consist of some hard conversations.
"We are also getting to the issues of diversity," Billings-Burford said. "Identities, stereotyping, conflict resolution and so we are using all of that to make our nation better."
The hope is bridges will be built and conversations have increased. Participant Jacoby Jackson is looking forward to spend some time with police. He is in the 8th grade.
"Build a better relationship basically," Student Jacoby Jackson said. "And get to know them better."
So far this program has consisted of bringing more than 11,500 youth and police officers together to build bridges. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper says he would like this type of program to spread across North Carolina.
"This mentoring program can make a real difference in the lives of kids," NC Governor Roy Cooper said. "It can also make better law enforcement officers, as those officers see how kids live in the community and ask them questions about their lives and the challenges that they face."
The first weekly sessions start March 9.