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PACER Program Returns To Pine Grove Manor School

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Township police officer Nick Gambino read “Fly Away Home” by Eve Bunting to 3rd Grade students at Pine Grove Manor School.


A dozen years after it was ended, a program through which township police officers read to children at Pine Grove Manor School has been given new life.

The program, Police And Children Engaging in Reading, or PACER, allows elementary school children to see police officers in a different light, said township police Sgt. Sean Hebbon. Hebbon and Officer Nick Gambino were on hand Feb. 18 to read to the 3rd Grade students of Kim Buchinski and Phyllis Majewski.

There are 12 township officers who participate in the weekly program, Hebbon said. He said they usually go to the school in teams of two.

PACER is a national program that began in the mid-1990s. At that time, members of the township police department’s Neighborhood Police Teams would read to the students.

Budget cutbacks in 2003 led to a realignment of the department and the dissolution of the teams, and, as well, the department’s participation in the program, according to a press release from township police.

Police Chief Lawrence Roberts, who was the NPT’s sergeant, always wanted to bring the program back, according to the release.

“Now more than ever, we need to have the support of our community,” Roberts said in the release. “We need to work hand in hand with them to accomplish our goals. Fostering a positive relationship with the children today will have lasting effects far into the future.”

Buchinski, the school’s liaison with the police department, said in the release that students and staff “were excited” about the return of PACER.

“Through P.A.C.E.R these young members of the community are given access to officers that would otherwise not be possible,” she said in the release. “It’s been the buzz of the school, the kids can’t stop talking about it.”

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Gambino answers questions from students.

Gambino said the experience was a good one for the officers who participate.

The students “have a lot of different questions pertaining to the book that we help them answer, and questions pertaining to the job,” he said. “These are the kids we see out in the neigborhood when we’re answering calls but a lot of the time, you’re on the job, you can’t really hang out too long.”

 

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