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Kinston police had questions, Teamship group had answers

A group of South Lenoir High School students put their heads together during this summer’s District C Teamship program to develop strategies the Kinston Police Department could use to bolster community relations and, in turn, boost recruiting efforts.

Eleven people pose in a line in a city council chamber with four city council members standing on the dais behind.The police department has already adopted four of the students’ ideas.

“This has been for us an amazing partnership with these young minds. They blew us out of the water with the things they came up with,” Kinston Police Sgt. Jay Moody told the Kinston City Council during a presentation about the Teamship experience Monday night.

On hand for the presentation was the team of six students – Evan Grady, Campbell Price, Braden Barnett, Madison McCall, Tamara Loftin and Jamison Sutton – and South Lenoir faculty members Melanie Smith and Sarah York, both certified Teamship coaches. All received certificates of appreciation from the city.

“We divided our students into two teams to solve an immediate problem for the KPD: how to assist in finding and hiring qualified candidates for our local law enforcement agency,” Smith said. “In order to have long-term success, the students felt it was necessary to change the perception in the community of what being an officer is all about, starting with the younger generations. Having that positive image promotes and influences the community to want to become more involved and potentially creates new interest in the force.”

The students’ ideas that found immediate favor with the KPD were:

  • Lunch with the Law, a program that will connect police officers with elementary-age children in informal settings. “We need to be in the schools more than we are,” Sgt. Moody said, “making that first positive impression on these young minds and letting them know we’re just like anybody else.”
  • KFP Inspire, a summer camp for students in middle school and high school, introducing them to the workings of the police department. The inaugural summer camp session is scheduled for August 17-18. As of Monday night, Moody said, 11 of the 12 slots allotted campers had been filled.
  • Promotional materials the students created for KPD Inspire, including Facebook posts. They also helped the police department bundled its various social media accounts into a single app called Linktree, which brings potential applicants to all those accounts with a single click.
  • A KPD podcast, which the students’ pitched by producing a sample podcast with Sgt. Brian Biggins. “That’s something we’re still thinking about,” Moody said.

These ideas and others percolated up during the eight days in July the Teamship students worked on the project. Moody and Biggins sat down with them twice to answer questions as the students gathered information and the group also went on a field trip to the police department.

That’s the Teamship model – gathering information, analyzing that input and pitching solutions – followed by teams from LCPS high schools as they worked with local businesses and agencies this summer to solve real-world issues. This is the second year that LCPS has offered District C Teamship as part of its summer learning program.

“It really creates a different mindset for these kids,” Smith said of the Teamship process. “They learn how to solve real-work problems but they do it in a totally different way than they’ve ever experienced before. The process involves a lot of critical thinking and, within that, students have to allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to learn new techniques.”

Smith hopes to incorporate the Teamship process into a new leadership development course at South Lenoir High this coming school year, where the school administration itself is the students’ client. “As a business teacher, I think this program is phenomenal,” she said.

Photo caption:

At the Kinston City Council meeting Monday night, where the Kinston Police Department praised its summer partnership with the District C Teamship group from South Lenoir High School, are, from left, front, Sgt. Brian Biggins, students Campbell Price, Tamara Loftin, Jamison Sutton, Braden Barnett, Evan Grady and Madison McCall, Teamship coaches Sarah York and Melanie Smith, Mayor Don Hardy and Sgt. Jay Moody; back, Council member Robert Swinson, Council member Chris Suggs, Mayor Pro Tem Antonio Hardy and Council member Sammy Aiken