Throughout my years of service as a police officer, I have discovered a pattern in my calls for service. I have encountered a number of adults who cannot manage their emotional states (anger, anxiety, or sadness). Lacking these emotional skills often results in risky (and sometimes criminal) behaviors, mental health concerns and/or substance abuse. Research shows that adult mental health issues begin in childhood, so why aren’t we tackling this issue head-on with our youth? By “we” I mean educators, police officers, parents, coaches, family members, and community partners. Unfortunately, children receive limited amounts of “character education” in schools, which are essential for their health, happiness, safety and resilience. Our kids need to learn emotional self-regulation, and ways to harness a sense of positive vision and authentic values. I thought, “how do we do this?”

I started with what I know. I began thinking about ways police officers could approach the subject of effective skill building through their interactions with children. These community leaders have a unique opportunity to truly support children, aiding in their personal growth and success. I truly believe officers can help to produce positive and productive members of society; after all, isn’t this serve and protect? Isn't this crime prevention?

As time went on, I researched tirelessly on the topic of Positive Youth Development. I delved into studies on what makes a child happy, healthy, safe and resilient. I studied children in my own community by observing, engaging, listening, and understanding.

I wanted to be a catalyst for a change.

It wasn’t enough to simply research and identify what NOT to do when working with kids; I realized I wanted to show people what TO do.

I learned that one program facilitated for several weeks will not effect the change I envisioned. It is imperative that character education becomes a shared responsibility that is integrated into every aspect of a child’s life. As a result, the L.E.A.P. Program evolved into a progressive method for connecting teachers, parents, coaches and communities. Think, villages!

I believe a good program is never complete, as I’m always learning, growing and investigating. In 2014, I wanted to delve deeper to learn what would be most effective in transforming the culture of a community. I became a Massachusetts Certified teacher in the area of Health/Family & Consumer Sciences to learn, grow and investigate. I also received a certification in Children’s Yoga & Mindfulness,  in addition to extensive self-study and research, which helped me understand the importance of present moment living for children (and grown-ups!), and the incredible physical and emotional health benefits of this practice. These transformative practices just might be the key to real change in building strong, positive students (and their caretakers!)

Our children need more; more tools, more skills, more understanding, and more “doing” from their caretakers. It is my life purpose to help these caretakers approach their position mindfully, and with a great deal of compassion for our young people who face so many developmental, educational and societal challenges.

Are you a caretaker? If so, I look forward to walking this journey with you! Reach out to bring the L.E.A.P. Model to your community; info@leapprogram.net

In Service,

Michelle Palladini