Cops, community members run together for youth scholarships
Jueoz Tucker crouched in a sprinter's position, poised to launch himself from the start line of the CommUNITY and Cops 5K race on Saturday.
Behind the 14-year-old were more than 75 runners lined up near the intersection of Newberry and King streets, in front of Logos Academy, in York City, eagerly awaiting the signal as "What is Love" by Haddaway blasted loudly over the speakers.
The York Catholic teen, and many others, came out on Saturday, Oct. 19, because they love running — but also to get a chance to interact with community members and police officers in a relaxed setting.
"Kids sometimes don't realize that police officers are normal human beings," said Sgt. Rick Thompson, of the Springettsbury Police Department.
Having a 5K, where they can see police in their shorts and T-shirts, lets that guard down a little bit, he said, and teens are less intimidated to come up and talk to law enforcement.
"It's a constant exercise of building community," said York City Mayor Michael Helfrich as he kicked off the race, highlighting the trust needed between police and the city.
That's something that was important to former York City Police Chief Wayne Ruppert, who died in 2010 after many years working with juveniles in the police force. The race, now in its third year, is dedicated to Ruppert.
When he was first put on a police beat, his widow Gayle Ruppert said, children in the city would run from him, so he decided to throw a party for them in exchange for some help cleaning up a nearby lot filled with debris.
"They didn't think he meant it," Ruppert said, but when they saw him working in the lot, they started coming out of their houses to help him, and from then on, he developed a rapport and mentored about 200 youths.
In honor of his work, Gayle Ruppert approached Logos Academy, a private K-12 school focused on affordable education for a diverse community, seven or eight years ago about creating a scholarship for students in her late husband's name.
"The one thing he would always say to them was, 'Get back to school,'" she said, about the teens he would help, so it seemed fitting to give back.
Two-thirds of students at Logos are at or near the poverty level, and many receive scholarships. Each year, the race funds at least one full scholarship of about $7,500.
About 250 people attended this year's event — some running and others playing games, eating pancakes, dressing as superheroes for an additional one-mile fun run or hanging out at the post-race block party. It's the largest participation the event has seen.
The race is also fitting for Logos because "one of our core values is community," said Assistant Head of School Lisa Work.
"We want students, families and the community to know that we're here to not be separate but together," she said.