“With each session I try to hit their mind, their body or their spirit.” said Rizzo PAL Director Ernie Rehr.
Last Monday night, the Police Athletic League held its final session for this fall’s Positive Images seminar, a 12-week event described as “a team-building, esteem-building program for our young ladies” of the Port Richmond area, according to Ernie Rehr, the director of the Rizzo PAL Center.
“With each session, I try to hit their mind, their body or their spirit.” said Rehr. “We have zumba classes, we have yoga classes, we do scrapbooking, we have a bullying class, but for 12 weeks on Monday evenings from 6:30 to 8 o’clock the girls come in here from ages 10–18.”
The girls will also sometimes play various sports at the sessions.
At the night’s final session girls who participated in the program sung karaoke, danced and were treated to an array of pizza, hoagies, cookies and other food to celebrate the end of their 12-week session.
Every year, the PAL does two 12-week sessions.
Gianna Bradley, a paid employee who was involved in the program when she was younger, called the program “life changing.”
“It’s made an impact on my life, to be honest,” she said. “If I didn’t do it, I don’t know where I’d be. Ernie keeps a good head on your shoulders. He keeps everybody out of trouble and inspires people to do things.”
“I would definitely recommend it,” said 16-year-old Sarah Mace, who is involved in the program. Mace said the program teaches girls “how to take care of your body and how to take care of your mind.”
Throughout the years, Rehr has gotten many speakers to talk to the girls about female empowerment. Speakers have included some of the highest ranking female police officers and firefighters, former district attorney Lynn Abraham and Fox 29’s Kathy Orr.
“My daughter is on the autism spectrum, so it was really important for me to get her into a social group with peers,” said Kristine DeCarles, whose 19-year-old daughter Angelina completed the program last year. She still helps out and volunteers at the program even though her daughter is no longer involved. “It made her more outgoing and made her able to maintain a social structure in her life. My daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome, and they have a problem with socializing. So it was really good for her.”
DeCarles said she had fun helping every Monday night.
“They’re always a great group of girls,” she said. “Sometimes they come in and are super shy. Little by little you see them come out of their shell.”
“I think it teaches them to accept people who are a little different from them or that live differently or that have a different outlook on things,” said Christina Brunkel, whose 23- and 21-year old daughters, Brittney and Jocelyn, both were involved in the program when they were younger. She still helps and volunteers at the program. “It helps that they learn to be more accepting and talk to people that they normally wouldn’t talk to. And I think it also ups their confidence because it teaches them that it’s OK to be who they are and they don’t really have to worry about what other people think so much, so it’s a good thing for their self-esteem.”
For more information about the Rizzo PAL Positive Images Facebook page.