Nationally Renowned TAPS Academy Expands to Chicago School

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Program designed to reduce social distance between youth and law enforcement launches at Chicago’s Excel Academy Southwest.

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During the past three years, TAPS Academy has been successful in narrowing the social distance between youth and police. Momentum and enthusiasm about the program continues to increase.

The 11th Teen and Police Service (TAPS) Academy has launched at Excel Academy Southwest High School marking the second Camelot School, which provides alternative education options, to feature TAPS. The innovative curriculum, which runs for 11 weeks, is geared toward bridging the gap between at-risk youth and law enforcement. TAPS Academy is currently being implemented in multiple cities nationally and internationally, with established locations in Houston, Columbus, Miami and Puerto Rico.

Once Excel Academy Southwest was made aware of TAPS Academy’s achievements and results, they were eager to implement the program. “We felt our students would truly benefit from TAPS. As a school that provides alternative educational options, the youth at our academy are often dealing with a variety of issues and on their last chance for graduation,” said Jake Benke, academic coordinator at Excel Academy Southwest. “We anticipate a positive experience with the first TAPS class based on the fact that our students are already communicating openly about current perceptions of law enforcement.”

Keeping students out of prison is a major goal for Excel Academy Southwest. More than 15 students are participating in TAPS Academy Chicago and will be mentored by five officers from the Chicago Police Department.

TAPS Academy was created in the fall of 2011 from a Department of Justice office grant after Houston Police Department (HPD) Chief Charles McClelland, Jr. challenged his staff to find creative ways to reach the at-risk youth in the community. HPD Assistant Chief Brian Lumpkin and Dr. Everette B. Penn, criminologist at University of Houston-Clear Lake, wrote the grant that created TAPS Academy. Penn now serves as the program’s director.

“Our initial goal for TAPS Academy involved connecting teens to law enforcement, authority and their school environment,” said Penn. “This program is a deterrent to the school-to-prison pipeline which pushes our nation’s at-risk students out the classroom and into the criminal and juvenile justice systems.”

During the past three years, TAPS Academy has been successful in narrowing the social distance between youth and police. Momentum and enthusiasm about the program continues to increase as high schools and juvenile facilities across the nation are showing interest in the program. More information about TAPS Academy can be found at TAPSAcademy.org or Facebook.com/TAPSAcademy.

About TAPS Academy
TAPS Academy is an 11-week curriculum based program funded by the Department of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office. TAPS Academy’s goal of reducing the social distance between at-risk youth and law enforcement is being accomplished through learning, interaction and discussion between at-risk youth and local law enforcement personnel. Through this program, TAPS students and law enforcement personnel gain valuable insight about each other and the issues they face on a daily basis.

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Kendra Cummings

Donnie Gallagher