(KUTV) The South Salt Lake Police Department says they've seen a 60 percent drop in the juvenile crime rate as a result of an after school program that gives kids a chance to hit someone, legally.
At 5'4", Lily Canchola is not one to mess with, and at 6'1" and 184 pounds Pablo Garcia can give and take a beating in the ring. These are just two of the 70 plus kids involved in the after school program in South Salt Lake called "PAL," which stands for Police Athletic League. It's a program that's taking kids from 2nd grade to 12th grade off the streets and into the gym, in an effort to keep them out of trouble.
The first hour of this after school program starts in the classroom doing homework, where kids get individual help from tutors. Then it's into the cafeteria where food is provided by the Utah Food Bank. Next it's onto the field for stretching and cardio exercises, and then finally the kids get a chance to get inside to ring to box.
South Salt Lake Officer Jerry Silva says the PAL program really took off in 2007. He said "Through this program I've seen kids go from D's and F's to C's and B's." That's what's happened to Lily and Pablo.
"I had really bad grades, I had D's and F's and was slacking in school but we are not allowed to box if we don't have the grades" said Pablo.
Lily also points out that her D's and F's are now A's and B's.
South Salt Lake Police are also reporting a drop in their juvenile crime rate. Officer Silva said "If kids don't have a place to go, if they don't have a sense of belonging, they are going to go do things we don't want them to do."
The after school program is held Monday through Friday at the Central Park Community Center in South Salt Lake. Funding for this program comes from various sponsors and organizations throughout the community.
The PAL program is a national program, but this is the only one in Utah.
For more information about PAL go to: www.sslpal.org/
(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)