Organizers looking to bring new youth sports program to northeast Louisiana

(Source: KNOE)
(Source: KNOE)(KNOE)
Published: Feb. 25, 2020 at 8:28 PM CST
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Officials in Union and Lincoln Parishes and Louisiana Tech are looking to bring a new youth program to northeast Louisiana. Police Athletics Community Engagement (PACE) started as a free athletic league to teach kids in inner-city neighborhoods in Omaha, Neb. core values and build relationships with them.

Louisiana Tech kinesiology dept. chair David Szymanski and other organizers are meeting with local law enforcement officers, pastors and other community leaders to introduce them to PACE.

"Everybody wants to help their children or the youth in the communities, and this program, I believe, is a way in which we can accomplish that," Szymanski says.

PACE founder Antonio Espejo with the Omaha Police Department says it's helped build relationships with his department and the community. "A lot of officers coach the teams. We also have a lot of community partners that help coach with these teams, and it's just instilling values a lot of these kids don't have," Espejo says.

Mary Barrios says that program will be beneficial to kids here in northeast Louisiana. "It's important to not only tell kids not to do drugs, but to do other things in its place,” says Barrios, healthy living coordinator for the Children’s Coalition. “Positive, prosocial activities they can do that will keep them out of trouble and keep them from thinking about drugs."

They're hoping to have officers and other familiar faces in the community step up to the plate, like Pastor Tommy Carr. "A lot of our children, they're involved in athletics, but we can use athletics provide structure,” says Carr, pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church. “Use that to help curb behavior, use that to help develop their skills, and the important thing is to encourage them to get an education."

Szymanski hopes to have this program become something Louisiana Tech and Grambling students will be able to help with and learn from as well.

To help get involved with PACE, you can call the Children’s Coalition at (318) 323 – 8775. You can also reach Szymanski by phone at (318) 257 – 4432 or email at