Santa Barbara Police Activities League
(Santa Barbara Police Activities League photo.)

With the holiday season just around the corner, it’s that time of year to start giving back to your favorite local nonprofits. Join Noozhawk this #GivingTuesday and give a gift that keeps on giving!

Noozhawk is teaming up with local nonprofits to encourage you to take part in the international day of giving, which takes place on November 30th, 2021.

It is no secret that this past year and a half has been full of challenges. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, local nonprofits need your support now more than ever.

Our Good for Santa Barbara Nonprofit Section provides all the resources you need to donate this holiday season, including a full Giving Guide with a list of local nonprofits who need your help this Giving Tuesday. 

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Judie Lugo, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Police Activities League, to learn more about how the nonprofit is dedicated to building the bridge between cops, kids and our community through educational, athletic, and leadership enrichment programs.

Santa Barbara Police Activities League

Question: What is the name & mission of your nonprofit?

Answer: The Santa Barbara Police Activities League (SBPAL) strives to build the bridge between cops, kids, and our community through educational, athletic, and leadership enrichment programs.

PAL’s vision is to empower the next generation of leaders by fostering dedication to civic engagement, providing access to resources, and instilling confidence. PAL serves youth ages 11-18-years-old. Over 95% of PAL participants are Latinx, and come from Spanish speaking and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The average household income of the youth we serve is $40,000.

All PAL participants qualify for free or reduced lunch on campus. PAL’s primary goals are for students to achieve academic success, have a plan for life after high school, improve attitude toward law enforcement, and to develop civic responsibility.

In the Santa Barbara Unified School District, only 42.95% of Hispanic/Latinx graduates and 40.77% of low income graduates meet University of California and California State University A-G eligibility requirements. PAL strives to support students in graduating from high school and having a plan for their futures. PAL has a 9-year trend of 100% high school graduation rates and 100% post-secondary education enrollment among PAL students

Q: How long has your nonprofit been in service?

A: SBPAL was founded in 1999 by Retired Officer Kent Wojciechoski.

Q: How is your nonprofit primarily funded and what are your greatest needs?

A: SBPAL is entirely funded through community support and grants, not by the government or police department. Our greatest need is general operating support to continue to employ our trusted, expert staff and maintain our Twelve35 Teen Center facility.

Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your nonprofit?

A: PAL’s Board of Directors and the City of Santa Barbara Police Department are committed to ensuring the success and sustainability of PAL programs, and actively work to expand donor engagement and fundraising.

We have not been able to have our annual Gala in 2020 or 2021, which typically raises around $150,000. We have created two new fundraisers to help fill this gap. In April, we hosted a virtual fun run for all community members, including the local police department and PAL students to raise money for their organization.

This upcoming summer, we will be hosting the Battle of the Badges fundraiser. Our local police department will be challenging other law enforcement and first responder agencies to a relay race. They are asking friends, family, and local agencies and businesses to sponsor them. We hope to raise $50,000 at this event.

Additionally, we will continue to apply for community and foundation support.

Q: What types of fundraisers and/or programs does your nonprofit run?

A: PAL provides enrichment programming at the Twelve35 Teen Center in downtown Santa Barbara. Programming includes academic support through the Life After High School Academy, tutoring with Cal-SOAP volunteers, Pedal Power with the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, outdoor education with Wilderness Youth Project, Supermen boys group, WonderWoman girls group, the Bridge Mentoring Program with local police officers, a weekly Fitness and Wellness class, the Teen Leadership Academy, an outdoor fitness and recreation area, and PAL’s role as the lead agency for Campership Alliance.

Q: How do people get involved/volunteer for your nonprofit?

A: People can get involved or volunteer on our website.

Q: What makes your nonprofit different from others?

A: Our work is unique in that we are the only organization in Santa Barbara specifically serving youth ages 11-18 with the goal of building positive relationships between disadvantaged youth and local law enforcement through consistent police interactions and mentorship.

Q: Can you share one or two stories of individuals whose lives have been changed because of your organization?

A: A past Youth Leadership Council participant shared, “I started going to PAL in 8th grade, and I can honestly say that they changed my life. I wasn’t very social, happy, involved with my community, or had many friends before I started going to PAL. Thanks to being involved in the Youth Leadership Council I was able to develop the skills and strengths I have now. I am now able to say that I feel more confident in the way I carry myself and in the things I do, I am able to talk to new people more freely and make new connections, I have contributed to the community through a lot of the events I have helped plan and run in YLC, and I was really happy. I am eternally grateful for PAL helping me foster those abilities.”

A PAL student wrote, “With no friends, self-doubt, and self-hatred, I did not see the point of going to college. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was crying myself to sleep, spent countless hours studying – I reached my breaking point. I was failing courses, contemplated on dropping out, and untimely giving up on myself. However, a fellow PAL friend was going to visit Teen Center and invited me to tag along. As much as I tried to keep a happy front, I know I could not pretend with the people who have helped me out in my lowest moments. As I was opening up they made me realize that the person who I was becoming is not the person I want to be.”

Q: How does the work of your nonprofit get communicated to the public?

A: We share the impact of our work on our website and social media channels. Find us on Facebook and Twitter @SantaBarbaraPAL and on Instagram @sbpal.

Q: Can you tell us one short-term goal AND one long-term goal that your nonprofit has for the next year?

A: The pandemic and associated stressors have highlighted the need for increased mental health support and education for the teens we serve. We have worked to build closer relationships with local organizations that can provide support in this area and are continuing to expand our social-emotional learning curriculum through new community partnerships.

In the next year, we are hopeful to make a permanent outdoor recreation and fitness area in the space adjacent to the Twelve35 Teen center. At the beginning of the pandemic, we began utilizing the area to provide a safe, socially distanced space for academic support.

We have since transitioned it to a space with workout classes three times a week and fitness equipment, such as a stationary bike, yoga mats, medicine balls, free weights, and more. We are hopeful to secure permission to make this a permanent space that our teens can utilize and reap the benefits of health and wellness!

Click here to support Santa Barbara Police Activities League mission to build the bridge between cops, kids and our community through educational, athletic, and leadership enrichment programs.