PAL parents start petition to reopen center

PAL parents start petition to reopen center

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Parents are not ready to give up the fight to reopen the Police Athletic League Center in Gulfport. The center opened almost five years ago, and was free of charge for all students who wanted to partake in its after school programs. Several parents in Gaston Point have plans to go door-to-door getting signatures for their petition to reopen the PAL center, which closed in December.

"It helped a lot of kids, and it took them off the streets. For them to close it, I mean, it's not right," said Chris Smith.

Just weeks after the center closed its doors, a 19-year-old man was shot and killed just yards away from the center. Gulfport police are calling it a random act of violence, but Smith is calling it a reason why the PAL center should remain open.

I feel like if we had different programs for our kids, all the shootings and the violence wouldn't happen. So, that's why I started that petition," said Smith.

Parents like Smith say the Gaston Point community cannot afford to lose such a positive thing like PAL.

"I feel like they're setting our kids in Gaston Point up for failure. If you're going to take everything positive out of the neighborhood, what are the kids supposed to have," asked Alice Thomas.

It's not just the parents who are angered over the PAL program ending. Students are upset as well.

"It helped me, because we have this new Common Core thing going on at school, and it's like I'm struggling with it because it's a new thing to me," said Drerrell Mccord.

Even though there are no plans to reopen the center, Drerrell is keeping hope alive that he will one day be able to go back into the center, hang out with his friends and get the after school tutoring he says helped him make better grades.

"The kids need your help, so we won't have no flunkies in life. So we can go somewhere in the future," said Drerrell.

Last week, Police Chief Leonard Papania stressed that while Gulfport police officers are no longer involved with the Police Athletic League Center, his department still operates several programs and summer activities for youth.

He's also looking at an alternative to juvenile detention to help at risk kids get their lives back on track.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.