BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE
PUNGO — Youth from a leadership development camp visited the Virginia Beach Mounted Patrol Unit at its barn in Pungo on Wednesday, July 20, bringing city kids in contact with law enforcement officers who work on horseback.
Members of the Urban Summer Academy, most from Norfolk, watched a demonstration by mounted patrol members, came face to face with the horses, toured the barn and fed the horses carrots and apples.
Charles Perkins, 10, of Norfolk, said he enjoyed the chance to see the people and horses at work at the barn. Especially one horse.
“I liked the one named Disney,” he said, noting that she was the prettiest horse and had the most spots. Though he’s from the city, he said he’s had a chance to see horses in action, and he once got to ride one at a park in Norfolk.
Some children had been exposed to horses before, including one youth who visits a family farm in North Carolina, while others had not. Regardless of experience, they seemed to have a good time.
“I thought it was awesome and epic,” said Sadiq Bengono, 10, of Norfolk. He added that he thinks he has a bond with horses, dogs and guinea pigs, though his guinea pig bit him once.
The trip was hosted by the Virginia Beach Police Benevolent Association Local 34, which supports more than 300 members and works to strengthen ties with the community. This is the second year the association has hosted the trip, according to Master Police Officer Brian Luciano, president of the organization.
“It’s good for the kids to understand that we don’t just do police work,” said Sgt. M.J. Crooke of the mounted patrol. “This is a totally different side of the police. … When we go to the neighborhoods, the Oceanfront, some people have never seen a horse or touched a horse.”
Master Police Officer Aaron Dove of the mounted patrol also serves as secretary of the association. He helped lead tours and explained aspects of the mounted patrol to the children.
“It’s just a great way of getting out in the community and letting people know what we do as a union and also as a police department,” he said. “And it’s fun.”
The Urban Summer Academy works with government, community and educational organizations to provide opportunities for youth.
The academy is in partnership with Regent University’ Youth & Urban Renewal Center, according to a website for the program, which is run through the non-profit Global Institute for Empowerment & Leadership Development, or GIELD. Its founder is Dr. Antipas Harris, who also serves on the Regent faculty.
Meloney Mosley, who coordinated the trip for the academy, said the trip aimed to connect children from an urban setting to public agencies, including police. It’s important work.
“We’re not just talking about it,” she said. “We’re doing something about it.”
© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co. LLC