Everyday Heroes

Police Officer Starts Summer Camp for Girls With Special Needs

When she saw that students in her community were feeling left out, she used her own money to make it happen.

Angela Booker pays close attention to the students she watches over at Haynes Middle School in Nashville, TN. She's the school's resource officer, and when one of her favorite students suddenly started ignoring her one day, she was determined to find out why.

Turns out, Athaleah "Leah" Kerchaval (a 7th grader at the school) was upset that she couldn't attend a police-run summer camp that her older sister would be going to that summer. Leah has special needs, and her mother didn't think the camp would be the right fit for her. So, while Leah's sister would get to go to the camp run by the Fraternal Order of Police, she'd be missing out on all the fun.

That's all Booker needed to hear to start putting an idea in motion. She would start a weeklong summer camp especially for girls with special needs, the students who have always held a special place in her heart.

The camp was named TEAM 1. TEAM stands for Togetherness, Empathy, Acceptance and Motivation. The itinerary includes learning life lessons such as hygiene, counting money and improving conversation skills with adults and peers. The camp also gives girls the opportunity to get knowledge and firsthand experience in the careers they are interested in.

For the camp's first year in 2018, Booker did all of the planning herself, and used her own money to fund it. She drafted volunteers, made lunches and even picked up some of the girls herself so they could attend.

"It just started by me taking a week off to spend time with the girls," Booker told the Tennessee Tribune . "Then, in conversation with others, they said, 'They should have T-shirts.' Then someone said, 'You should have meals.'"

For the camp's second year, Booker (pictured below, left) got more help from the school and other community members. A city council member agreed to provide transportation and another volunteer went grocery shopping and bought them food and beverages. The school's principal says he's "all for it" and has offered use of the school and its facilities to the camp for free.

TEAM 1 has already made a lasting impression on the students who've attended, and Booker continues to be inspired by their positivity.

"I admire those girls," Booker said. "They have some for-real challenges yet they have smiles on their faces like they don't have a care in the world."

Booker, who moved to Nashville from Gary, IN and was assigned to Haynes Middle School as a resource officer seven years ago, doesn't see herself going anywhere else anytime soon.

"I'm in heaven now," Booker, 45, said. "I love what I'm doing. It shows. I don't look a day over 26," she joked.

If you'd like to find out how you can contribute to TEAM 1, you can reach out to Booker by email: angela.booker@Nashville.gov

If you're in the Nashville area, you can hear Officer Angela Booker speak about her project on Monday, November 18 th at a Nashville Storytellers event. Click here for more details .

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(Source: images Metropolitan Nashville Police Dept Facebook )

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