Blue pals connects St. Louis police officers with middle school students

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - A new program is building bridges between fifth grade students and St. Louis police officers.

The two groups are becoming pen pals through Blue Pals.

The “Blue” refers to St. Louis Police officers, who have partnered with 23 students at KIPP Inspire Academy in north St. Louis.

Jaida Jackson, 10, was initially reluctant about corresponding with an officer.

“I didn’t really like police officers. But [my pen pal] told me not all police officers are the same.

So now I have a more positive feeling about police officers,” she said.

Jackson’s experience speaks to the objective of Blue Pals. Organizers hope the letter-writing program will help young children and law enforcement officers understand each other.

“I think we’re moving toward that, seeing them as part of their family, part of their community,” KIPP Inspire Academy 5th grade teacher Jessica Pachak said. “The children’s initial reaction when I said that we’d been writing letters to the police, it was pretty negative. And as they started writing these letters, it’s been amazing.”

The ten-week program began with introductory letters from students at the middle school.

Over time, the students and officers got to learn about each other’s interests, day-to-day routine, and hobbies.

Gregory Crumer, 10, read an excerpt of a letter from his pen pal.

“’I know for certain that you should teach and show me a few things about basketball. I bet you’re pretty darn good,’” he read.

Not only have students learned the tools of effective letter writing, they’ve gained other valuable skills.

“[It’s] a good opportunity for me it made me feel more confident and make me feel more good about myself,” Jackson said.

The program will conclude next week, when the students and officers will meet face to face at KIPP Inspire Academy.