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Capture the Flag

posted Oct 13, 2018, 2:01 PM by Ashley Carneal   [ updated Oct 13, 2018, 2:01 PM ]
Even now, nearly 25 years later, Mark Parson still vividly remembers when professional soccer player Rob Ukrop visited his elementary school and spoke to his third-grade class about the importance of being good citizens and working hard in the classroom.

It made an impression on Parson, who went on to graduate from Monacan High and Ohio University before playing three seasons in the National Football League.

So when Parson and seven other former professional and collegiate athletes burst through a door into the Bellwood Elementary gymnasium last Friday morning and took turns giving high-fives to a group of cheering third- and fifth-grade students, he knew exactly what it meant to them.

“There aren’t that many professional athletes from this area, so this is big,” Parson said, signing autographs for the Bellwood students after playing capture the flag for two hours with them and officers from the Chesterfield Police Department.

Monacan High grad Mark Parson, who played three years in the NFL, talked to the students, below, about the importance of working hard in school and believing they can be successful. ASH DANIEL

The event, hosted jointly by the school system’s Communities in Schools program and the county’s new Police Athletic League, was intended to encourage teamwork and a positive school culture while giving students an opportunity to interact with positive role models. It also was a fun reward for students at Chesterfield’s only year-round public school. Bellwood began the 2018-19 school year July 23 and completed its first grading period last Friday. The school is now on break until Oct. 17.

“Everyone in this building has worked hard for the last nine weeks and they deserve a day of celebration,” said Bermuda District School Board member Carrie Coyner, who also took time out of her morning to participate in the capture the flag games.

Rick Cremonese, executive director of Chesterfield PAL, represented the police department along with six other current officers. Retired police officer Mark Bowen, a volunteer mentor at Bellwood, also played on the PAL team.

Parson helped recruit other athletes, including former Manchester High football standout Deshaun Amos, to join the team they called “The Monstars” – a reference to the film “Space Jam,” starring Michael Jordan.

“It’s nice to have people from their own community that the children can relate to and look up to,” said Elizabeth Stowers, the Communities in Schools site coordinator at Bellwood.

An outreach effort to connect police officers with youth in the communities they serve, the Police Athletic League was started in 1910 by the New York Police Department and now has chapters in more than 700 U.S. cities and serves approximately 2 million children annually.

Police officers function as coaches and mentors for children in the hope they will avoid negative influences, such as drugs and gangs, and become productive members of society.

Chesterfield’s PAL chapter launched unofficially last year and was incorporated in April.

“Getting these guys involved is so great for the community,” Bowen said. “We’re trying to help kids see police officers in a different light – that they’re not bad guys, they care and they’re here to help. Those are relationship building blocks that can follow kids from elementary school through middle school and into high school.”

As he signed his name on slips of paper, football jerseys, headbands and everything else the Bellwood students put in front of him, a smiling Parson said working with kids is his “passion.”

“I’m a big believer in giving back,” he said. “Giving your time to kids is key to having a healthy community. They’re our future.”

Source: Chesterfield Observer 
Written by: Jim McConnell