The Ormond Beach Police Athletic League does more than just help kids with sports in the community.
Despite it being after-school hours, 11 students at Ormond Beach Elementary remained in a portable classroom on Thursday, Nov. 16, completing a dog DNA-themed activity, the classroom full of excited chatter and rustling of paper.
The students, ages nine-11, participated in the Ormond Beach Police Athletic League's Science on Patrol, a six-week program meant to help boost the student's skills in science and math through forensic science-based activities. Science on Patrol, led by OBPAL Director Lisa Messersmith and Ormond Beach Elementary fifth grade teacher Robbin Durden, featured activities like fingerprinting and strawberry DNA extractions. A Science on Patrol program is also held at Ormond Beach Middle School.
This is just one of the free programs PAL leads in the community. They also have a Youth Director Council, a reading program for students in second through fourth grade, youth basketball and tutoring, art programs and field trips in the summer through the city's leisure services department.
Messersmith said what sets Ormond Beach's PAL program apart from others is that they focus more on educational program rather than athletics, though their basketball team has won state and national championships over the years.
“It’s a very wonderful program, but we want our kids to have a well-rounded experience, which means they need to focus on their education as well as their health and fitness and all of that," Messersmith said.
OBPAL works with local schools to identify children who have a specific need, whether it be academic, athletic or more personal, like needing to gain more self-confidence or build up their self-esteem. The community partnerships play an important role in what they're able to do, Messersmith said.
“The program could not move forward without the community support," Messersmith said. "We have to have their belief in what we’re doing and their financial support to provide these opportunities for kids.”
What lets them know their own the right track?
“The smiles are the best indicator," Messersmith said.
There were a lot of those during Science on Patrol. Isabelle Wurtz, 10, said she enjoys the experiments they do in the program, though she originally joined for another purpose.
“Just in general, I like science, but I wasn’t really good like a long time so I thought this would help me with like my grades,” Wurtz said.
She added that it has.
The experiments are also one of 11-year-old Connor Heller's favorite parts of Science on Patrol. He said he joined out of curiosity because he didn't know what the program was like. Now, he had some positive words to say about it.
“It’s really cool," Heller said.
Seeing the "lightbulb moments" in the students is one of the best parts of leading the program for Messersmith.
“It’s just rewarding to see that through what PAL is doing, the ones who are struggling with something are figuring out how to do it and their self-confidence is growing," Messersmith said. "Again, it’s all about the smiles.”