Two young men waited anxiously outside a dreary school building, eyes darting up and down the street–as if looking for someone. A man approached not too long after, keys in hand. Once the man unlocked the doors, the boys quickly filed in–glad to be back in there sanctuary.
Officer Tyrone Crawley, 52, spent the last 22 years of service to the Philadelphia Police Department, fighting crime from the inside out. His job entailed keeping local youth indoors and off the streets, from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m., as the director of the 23rd Police Athletic League.
“We serve all ages, from 8 to 18,” said Crawley.
An after-school program for both girls and boys, PAL began in 1947 as an initiative to better the relationship between youth in the community and police officers. PAL sought to help youth by providing a safe gathering place, encouraging academic success and facilitating recreational sports. The 23rd PAL seemed to meet these goals.
“I come to PAL because it is a recreation center where you come and you just chill, hang out,” explained Chandler Jones, 17, “You can play basketball, you can play pool or you can just have fun and talk to people.”
Located on the 1800 block of North 23rd Street, the 23rd PAL is no Wells Fargo Center. Four hoops, one billiards table and a small computer room make up the quaint facility meant to accomodate most of the surrounding neighborhood’s school-aged children.
“Everybody from the neighborhood comes in here,” said Radeem Walker, 19, “It’s definitely a good place to stay out of trouble because you’re always active.”
Despite the simple setting, the youth found a reason to come here faithfully–even when there’s no school. For many, PAL has become another home.
“[I’m here] everyday. It’s something better to do on the weekdays than stay in the house and play video games,” said Khalif Cale, 14.