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Bal Harbour police give more than money to an alternative school

Bal Harbour police chief and other officers reach out to help an alternative school.

Special to The Miami Herald
Bal Harbour Police Chief Thomas Hunker traded the village streets for the hallways of Young Men’s Academy for Academic and Civic Development at MacArthur South in Naranja.

Last month, Hunker served as honorary principal of the day at the alternative school, 13990 SW 264th St.

His duties included observing classrooms and monitoring hallways with school administrators during breaks and dismissal.

“It was a worthwhile effort,” Hunker said.

The opportunity came after the Bal Harbour Police Department donated $11,000 from forfeiture funds to the school. Hunker and Bal Harbour Councilwoman Patricia Cohen presented the check to school officials.

The contribution will be used to help finance the Positive Behavior Support, a program that rewards students for doing the right thing, said Principal Cynthia Valdes-Garcia.

She said the chief’s recent appearance was a great learning tool.

“It is an honor for us to have a law enforcement officer to work with these challenging students,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Also to encourage students to learn from their mistakes and to provide them with the hope and additional support.”

It’s not the first time Bal Harbour’s finest has donated to the school. For the past three years, the police department has donated $15,000, not including this year’s contribution.

Hunker and his department became aware of the school when retired FBI agent Terry Nelson told the officers about the school’s programs.

Nelson has been thrilled with the Bal Harbour Police’s donations to the school.

“You can’t imagine how significant that [latest] contribution is for our school,” said Nelson, who serves as the community liaison at juvenile delinquency criminal court.

The money will be used to buy a recreation reward room equipped with video games and entertainment. Food, sodas and field trips will also be funded by the most recent donation.

The alternative school, which teaches sixth through 12th grades, was established in 1973 to help students whose problems range from disruptive behavior to truancy to substance abuse.

Valdes says the at-risk kids can change — with help.

“These students have made mistakes but it takes someone to believe and provide them with hope to learn from their mistakes,” she said. “We can make this world a better place if we give back to the community and instill hope.”

Students are helping their own cause by selling artwork completed at school.

Their talent stunned Hunker.

“The artwork is unbelievable,” said Hunker who bought a painting.

Students draw in their weekly art class and also receive instruction from artists at ArtSouth in Homestead. Their artwork is sold and displayed at shows. The money from the drawings is used to help support school programs.

“If anyone needs help in the school system, these guys need it the most,” Hunker said.

To donate or to get more information call Sheila Freckleton at the school, 305-258-7200.

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