ACES is a week long summer program designed to present youths with alternatives to drugs and gangs, provide them with positive role models, and improve the law enforcement-youth relationships in this area. The program is administered by the Police Department and targets youths, ages 8 through 14. The ACES is an acronym derived from Alternative choiCES. By joining the ACES program, the youths will be “Flying High on Life.”
ACES meets at a neighborhood location during the summer, for five days. The program can be repeated at additional locations as time and finances allow.
The program is one in which youths are exposed to different activities in an informal, fun atmosphere. The youths participate in different fun activities that include different sports, games and crafts. A very important element of the morning session is the one-on-one personal contact the youths have with the police officers who participate in the activities with the youths.
Another important part of the morning sessions comes from the cooperation of different industries or businesses in the community. With the help of these industries, rolemodel(s) are selected to come up the site to talk to the youths about their careers and the opportunities their life styles have afforded them. We try to obtain role models who are people with whom the youths can relate because of similar ethnic backgrounds.
After feeding lunch to the youths, they are taken on field trips to different locations in the area. The trip is usually to the industry or business that provides the role model(s) for the morning session. The objective of these trips is to expose the youths to different career opportunities in the area. They are also able to meet on-site positive role models. Past locations for these trips in Decatur have included Amoco, Browns Ferry, Channel 48 News, Chiptec, Decatur General Hospital, Decatur Utilities, Daiken, the Fire Department, General Electric, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Nova Chemical, the Police Department, Redstone Arsenal Military Base, Saginaw Steering Gear, South Central Bell, and 3M.
In line with the concept that we are trying to teach, the youths are able to each ACESdollars for attendance, participation in activities, and good behavior. They are able to purchase small items at the end of each day from our ACES store. On Friday of each week, the youths that have saved enough ACES Dollars in their ACES Bank account are taken on a Friday trip. This addition to the program has helped us teach financial responsibility.