20th Annual Youth Director's Conference
The State of Florida Association of Police Athletic/Activities Leagues Presents 20th Annual Youth Directors' Conference
More than two hundred Police Athletic League (PAL) kids and their adult mentors met for the annual State of Florida Association of Police Athletic/Activities Leagues (SFAPAL) Youth Directors' Conference (YDC), held from July 19-22, 2018, at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort and Conference Center in Orlando, Florida.
The kids represented fourteen PAL chapters, mostly from Florida--Ormond Beach, Palatka, West Melbourne, Jacksonville, Winter Haven, Cocoa, Homestead, Coral Gables, North Miami, Lakeland, Satellite Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Brevard County, and one PAL chapter from San Mateo, California.
The Youth Directors Conferences feature dynamic and inspiring speakers and informative break-out sessions. Plenty of time is left for fun activities. For example, for several years, the conferences have gotten off to a rollicking start with the PAL version of Spike TV's Lip Sync Battles. For this conference, the kids chose popular music from the 90's era. Coach Avery Randolf, of Ormond Beach PAL, served as an entertaining MC, and kept the pace moving. West Melbourne PAL was judged to be the winner this year, with Jacksonville PAL coming in second, and Ormond Beach PAL awarded third place. Each presentation was filled with enthusiasm, drama, imagination, inspiration, and of course, great choreography on the dance moves. PAL rocks!
A special thanks to Javier Sanchez for opening the 2018 YDC and volunteering to come and help for this special, meaningful milestone of the YDC conferences. (gratis-thank you so much)
How did all this start? Twenty years ago, the concept of a Police Athletic League program to teach leadership and community outreach was a brand-new idea in Florida. Mr. L.B. Scott, the executive director for SFAPAL (or as it's commonly known-Florida PAL), was impressed with the Niagara Falls PAL Youth Forum and was inspired to create something similar in Florida. And so, the Florida PAL Youth Directors' Council (YDC) program began.
Two hundred fifty-three PAL kids and their adult leaders from Florida PAL chapters, and points beyond, met May 7-9, 1999, at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando to learn more about this exciting new program. Would it fly? Would it be productive? And would the kids like it? Turns out, the kids loved it. This was an organization for kids, run by kids. The young folks took the concept and ran with it.
At that time, Mr. Scott explained that the purpose of the program would be to teach kids what it means to be involved in charitable work, how non-profit organizations function, and how to manage organizations of their own. He said that the Youth Directors' Program "gives Florida PAL an opportunity to work with kids on another level rather than always concentrating on athletics. Many kids are not involved in athletics and will have an opportunity to do some positive things in their community."
Way back then, in 1999, SFAPAL Executive Director Scott said, "I think it's one the most important things that Florida PAL has done for a number of years," and he predicted, "I have no doubt that it will just get better and better." (from an article in the 1999 Year End Issue of PAL ILLUSTRATED)
And this year, 2018, in his welcoming remarks for the conference, Mr. Scott wrote, "As I look back . . . when we started the program with our first conference being held at Disney's Wide World of Sports Baseball Stadium, much has changed for the better. The main constant over twenty years has been Florida PAL's commitment to providing an educational program that improves the lives of the youth we serve."
What Happens at a Youth Directors' Conference
isn't meant to stay at a Youth Directors' Conference
The lessons learned, the messages from the speakers, the friendships forged-all are meant to be taken to heart and formed into lasting memories and continued inspiration. The training the PAL kids receive at the conference is conceived to help them realize their potential, be better citizens, and experience more fulfilled lives. The fun comes from the interaction with their peers and enjoying all the magic that Disney theme parks offer. SFAPAL strives to maintain a balance between seriousness and fun. As Executive Director L. B. Scott has said, "A time for business and a time for play." By early afternoon each day of the conference, the sessions wrap up and the kids head for the parks.
Since the beginning of the YDC, the annual conference, traditionally held at Disney World, has been the highlight for PAL Youth Directors each year. If the youth do the required community service and meet the other guidelines, such as attending their local and regional YDC meetings, then the annual conference, the meals, the lodging, and Disney theme park passes are free for four youth directors and two adults from each PAL chapter, compliments of SFAPAL. Many PAL chapters pay from their own funds so that additional PAL kids can attend.
2018 Conference Break-out Sessions and Facilitators
The PAL Kids Learn and Are Inspired
Career Opportunities, with Mr. Dave Lester: Mr. Lester is the lead editor at Turner Studios, for ELeague, a professional esports league featuring the popular video games CS-GO, Street Fighter, DOTA2, Overwatch, and Rocket League. During his tenure at Turner, he has worked with such celebrities as Kid Rock, AC/DC, Macklemore, and Snoop Dog. "I'm grateful and feel extremely lucky to have a job I enjoy going to each and every day," Mr. Lester said. "Social media jobs are fun." Turner Studios, Mr. Lester's place of employment, offers apprentice and trainee programs for those looking for opportunities to break into the world of production. During his break-out session with the kids, he explained some facets of his work, including the different stages of producing promos and sizzle teases, and showed many of his videos. He then offered guidelines to the PAL kids on how they could find the right career-think about what they like to do, what makes them unique, and what would they like to get really good at. He advised working harder than anyone else, being authentic, original, and aiming for constant improvement.
Crime and Safety, with Mr. Ken Jefferson: When Mr. Jefferson talks about crime and safety issues affecting our young people, he brings with him twenty-four years of experience with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, many other facets of law enforcement, and years of TV crime analysis. Mr. Jefferson's career in law enforcement actually started when he was in fifth grade. A police officer came to his classroom to tell the students what it was like to be in law enforcement. Mr. Jefferson remembered how the class immediately and respectfully paid attention as the officer shared how he was able to help people as part of his job. That experience inspired young Ken Jefferson and he knew from that point on what he wanted to do as a career. Now, years later, as a way of continuing to help people, he has founded the Jefferson Consulting Group, through which he conducts workshops and seminars on self-empowerment and speaks at local and national conferences on safety concerns for children and senior adults. He also has a personal stake and interest in promoting safety for young people, as he has five children, one still a teenager.
Life After High School, with Mr. Greg Gage, Mr. Ernesto Santos, and Mrs. Diane (Clark) Jack, all PAL alumni: Each shared PAL memories and how they've come thus far in their young lives.
Greg Gage joined Satellite Beach PAL when he was thirteen. In PAL, Greg found his best friends (even his future wife) and his "greatest" mentor, Sergeant Paul Creatura. Greg learned helpful things in PAL that have stuck with him; he shared a few with the PAL kids in the break-out session: People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care, and It's not about what you do when people are watching; it's what you do when no one's watching, and You are not responsible for someone else's actions, but you are responsible for how you react to them. When Greg was in high school, he had no idea what he wanted to do in life. Sergeant Creatura asked him what he liked, and Greg's answer was "sports." Greg told the PAL kids how he moved toward his dream of being a coach: he coached PAL basketball while he was still in high school, brought his grades up in junior college, and graduated from the University of Central FL after studying sports and fitness. Greg is now the athletic director at Merritt Island Christian School and he will be their head football coach for the upcoming season. Showing up is half the battle, he said; less than 5% of high school athletes show up for every practice. He advised the PAL kids to encourage their friends and teammates; We can be greater together, he assured them. Greg and his wife, Melissa, love to spend time together and with their daughter, Aubree.
Ernesto Santos, was eleven years old when he joined PAL. He, along with his good PAL friend, Diane Clark, was one of the first members of the Youth Conference Committee (YCC), the group of specially chosen PAL kids who plan and implement the annual YDC conference. Ernesto was the FL PAL president in 2003-04, National PAL president in 2004-05, and was named PAL Boy of the Year in 2006. "Everything that makes up who I am today comes from the years of training and learning I received in PAL," Ernesto wrote for the conference brochure. After high school, Ernesto enrolled in the Disney College Program, and moved successfully along the paths of advancement with Disney. But, he realized, "As great as my job was, it wasn't my passion." That was part of his advice at the break-out session: Look for passion when you plan for a career. His experiences in PAL showed him the importance of having a career you are passionate about. He is now in his senior year at UCF pursuing a degree in radio and TV production. And he already owns a small video production company! Ernesto is married with two sons, one baby lost due to stillbirth, and now has another child on the way. He told the PAL kids that if they take one thing with them from the conference, take PMA-a positive mental attitude.
Diane Clark (now Diane Jack) told the PAL kids that twenty years ago she was sitting where they are now. She said that people are observing what they do, for better or worse. In her life, it's brought her opportunities. PAL leaders saw qualities in Diane that landed her an invitation to be on the Youth Advisory Committee and attend a PAL conference in California. When she attended Hillsborough Community College (HCC), people with connections with The Magic were watching her and were impressed enough to offer her a job in the Cayman Islands and in Argentina putting on basketball camps. "In college, you may think it's time to cut loose, but I was actually auditioning, being watched at HCC." She was even offered a position as head coach. "It was because of who I knew and what they knew about me," she said. In the fall, Diane will attend the University of Central Florida full time playing basketball.
The Interview, with Dr. Eric Becher: Dr. Becher has more than thirty-five years' experience in higher education, including teaching, strategic planning and fund raising. He's been on both sides of the interview table, both as a job applicant and as part of an interview committee, so he had good advice for the PAL kids as they prepare for job interviews. Dr. Becher cautioned the kids about what they post on social media--as those words and images often turn up later to either haunt or advance someone. "After high school, an eighteen-year-old will work 47 years until retirement age," Dr. Becher said. "That's 11,750 get-ups in the mornings. It doesn't matter what career you pick; just make sure you're doing what you want." His suggestions covered every aspect of how to prepare for an interview, including how to make a favorable impression with your appearance and your eye contact, how to write an effective resume, and why good communication skills matter. He revealed what employers are looking for in a candidate, and how to stand out among the other applicants.
The Art of Empathy, with Mr. Javier Sanchez and Mr. Ty Sells: Blending comedy and a genuine interest in young people, Ty Sells combines stories and interaction to involve and motivate kids to make better choices. Javier Sanchez incorporates music and positive messages to encourage teens to catch a vision of their potential and purpose in life. In this break-out session, the two of them made a powerful case for developing a greater understanding of empathy and realizing its benefits. They explored how we can recognize our biases and how we can learn strategies to connect and relate to people who are different from us. Basically, "empathy is an attempt to support by making an effort to understand," Mr. Sanchez said.
Once a PAL kid, always a PAL kid
Quite a few PAL kids, now adults, came back to attend and help. They serve as invaluable mentors to the current PAL kids. We call those veterans our PAL Alumni Advisory Committee (AAC). They shared some of their "best" memories:
Ileana Garcia spoke about her life-long friends in PAL who drove a long way to attend her graduation from law school. About PAL, she said, "You guys are my family forever."
Ernesto Sanchez said, "I could write a whole book on what PAL means to me."
Max Trapasso said, "I was in your seat fourteen years ago. What you put in, you get out. What I got means so much to me. PAL helped me become who I am today. That's why I wanted to give back."
Jerae Parrish said, "My best memory? It's hard to narrow down. It's just been awesome."
Liza Creatura said, "Coming back [as part of the ACC] has been so rewarding. Having something to give back is the best!"
Diane Clark Jack said, "Growing up I didn't have enough money to come to Disney, so coming with PAL was very special."
For Lamar, the best was: "Seeing all these new people in seats where I sat and knowing the people in the back are still doing an awesome job."
James McKinnon said his first YDC conference was 2007. His many special memories of PAL include being part of the PAL group who went to Washington DC, visited Congress and witnessed a vote. He said, "I'm blessed to be here for the 20th [celebration]."
Special Speakers During the 2018 Conference
Milton Creagh, or as the kids call him, Big Milt, stands tall at six feet, seven inches, and he is truly a larger-than-life hero for them. But it's more than his size that creates the bond the kids feel for him. He has been engaging and encouraging kids at the Florida PAL Youth Directors' Conferences (YDC) for years. It was a pleasure to welcome him back to speak at the 2018 YDC.
Patrick Abrahams, a grown-up PAL kid, now, as a young adult, is an ESPN producer. He said he has "had the pleasure to work with incredible people all around the world, but there is no greater honor than coming to speak to you [PAL kids] today. I grew up in these seats chanting PMA's with Ed Hayes and moved by the speeches of Big Milt." Patrick emphasized how what he learned in PAL has helped him through the ups and downs of his life.
Florida PAL Executive Director L.B. Scott said that "few things in PAL have touched me more than [Patrick's] story. I don't know a lot of people who would fly from Paris to come talk to you today." He thanked Patrick for encouraging the kids to get up when they fall down. "No one's perfect."
Shaun Derik, a captivating youth motivator with REACH Communications, came front and center with inspiration and challenges. In each of his presentations, he includes entertaining and innovative ways to convey his positive messages to the kids.
What is PAL?
"This program is here for you, young people," said Executive Director Mr. L.B. Scott. "We do what we do for a reason: to keep you guys out of jail." What is PAL? Many of the kids in the assembly had answers, and some came close to the actual description:
The Police Athletic League is the oldest and largest law enforcement-based-youth crime prevention program in America.
Mr. Scott thanked many who have worked and dedicated themselves to helping kids have a better life through PAL. At this point in the conference, everyone enjoyed slices of a magnificent cake to celebrate this milestone in the life of the YDC.
The PAL Boy and Girl of the Year
Congratulations, Christy Brewer from West Melbourne PAL, and Paul Gordon, from Jacksonville PAL! They received computer systems from donors Paul Creatura and Chris Robinson. In December, our two PAL award winners will each receive a $1000.00 check from donors Chief and Mrs. Mel Williams.
The Max Trapasso Scholarship Recipient
Max Trapasso presented Tiara Glenn, of Ormond Beach PAL, with a $500 check from the scholarship fund he founded. "We wanted to recognize PAL kids who are making a difference," Max said. Mr. Scott commended Max for this generosity; he wanted everyone to understand how good it is for Max to give back in this way.
The Meme Contest Winner
Congratulations, Winter Haven PAL! You won!
A Conference Closes; Memories Remain
Mr. Scott closed the conference with prayer, asking for safe journeys home for all.