Riviera Beach officer making a difference in children’s lives

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 1:11 PM EDT
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According to statistics from the Neighborhood Scout website, Riviera Beach is one of the most dangerous places to live in the country.

The website said there is a 1 in 87 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime in the city.

What you can't see in those numbers is real people making a difference.

People like police officer Jonathan Nance are making sure children stay on the right path.

"If you need anything, just make sure you call me," Nance said to middle school student Travis Stubbs while meeting in Riviera Beach.

Stubbs plays for Nance in the Riviera Beach Police Athletic League (PAL).

The student said the league creates a positive environment.

"Everybody around me, my friends, treat them like family," Stubbs said.

"This is one of the kids I had to make sure that I didn't lose to the streets," Nance said.

Having that outlet, with this coach, means the world to Stubbs.

"Riviera Beach is mostly known for gang violence but with PAL," Stubbs said. "He's trying to switch it around, make everyone pick a career, a choice, instead of joining the streets."

It comes naturally for Nance. Raised in Miami, he sees some of him in the kids he mentors.

"I've been in their shoes. You know, once school is out sometimes, we don't know when our next meal was coming, and that's how a lot of these kids are, so I can relate," Nance said. "In the beginning, they're a little shy. They don't want to tell you everything, but as time goes by, they become close. They see that you're here just to be a part of their life."

That life experience for the kids in the PAL program means trips to Universal Studios in Orlando and fishing trips.

It's not going unnoticed by those running PAL, like Vice President Ricky Wade.

"We can sit back on the sidelines, observe, place judgment, make comments or we can be involved and make a difference," Wade said.

Wade adds that more funding and public support can make the program shine even more.

For Nance, it's the little things like hearing from Stubb's family.

"When your grandma calls and brag on you to say the As and Bs that he's making, that's a beautiful thing," Nance said.

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