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Ridgewood police chief, school official sparking young leaders in ‘ambassador’ program

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

SHOUT OUT: A group of youngsters got down to business with Ridgewood Police Chief John Ward yesterday, beginning the work of creating a mission statement and establishing core values for the village’s first-ever Community Policing Youth Ambassador Program, in conjunction with the Board of Education.

Police and educators are looking to help coax youngsters into community leadership roles in which they will:

  • Help make the community safer;
  • Be voices in matters and concerns that directly affect youngsters – including anti-bullying, tolerance and respect;
  • Help police with community outreach and educational programs for crime prevention, community policing, and pedestrian/traffic safety;
  • Participate in creating video public safety announcements that touch on these concerns and others;
  • Open dialogue between young people and both public officials and area agencies;
  • Learn team building and project management;
  • Develop interpersonal skills of collaboration, communication, cooperation, leadership and active listening;
  • Show their peers and others that you’re never too young to take a leadership role.

The issues and concerns the ambassadors will address “are real and have an impact on our community and region,” said Gregory Wu, the assistant principal at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, who is coordinating the program with Ward and serving with him as an advisor.

“More than anything we want to give them a voice and let THEM make a difference in our community,” Ward told CLIFFVIEW PILOT last night.

The group includes Honorary Ridgewood Police Chief Michael Feeney, a special youngster whom Ward called “a critical member of the Youth Ambassador team.”

Michael, who is battling a rare form of Ewing’s sarcoma, couldn’t make it to yesterday’s session or the first larger group meeting of 18 youngsters held last Friday at the BF School.

So Ward paid him a visit ( photo, top ).

Michael got to hold Ward’s badge while participating in “Chief for a Day” activities sponsored by Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino in June ( SEE: Belief for a day: Police chiefs large, small teach us all ).

Two chiefs, Ward & Michael, at “Chief for a Day” (PHOTO: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

At the end of the event, he returned it.

So Ward brought Michael an honorary chief’s badge yesterday that he said is his to keep.

“I told him a chief takes his work home with him,” Ward said afterward. “So whether he can make meetings or not, he still will be actively involved.”

The chief also wants Michael involved in the public safety videos – possibly having him portray a police officer warning an adult pedestrian (played by a police officer) about crossing properly. The adult could then be seen in bandages, perhaps with a crutch, telling the officer he was sorry he learned the hard way.

“It’s a way that kids can teach parents,” Ward said.

Ridgewood’s youth ambassadors will come from 5 th graders in all the district’s schools, as well as middle- and high-schoolers, and some college interns.

The core group, once trained, will be able to “network it out, bring peer-to-peer role-model leadership back to their schools,” the chief said. “Each and every one of them will come out a leader.”

MORE INFO: Ridgewood Police Chief John M. Ward jward@ridgewoodnj.net
BFMS Asst. Principal Gregory Wu gwu@ridgewood.k12.nj.us

Ridgewood Police Chief John Ward and young ambassadors huddling yesterday

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