Cayman’s skateboarding scene has come a long way since it started with a ramp in the backyard of West Bay police constable Steve Myers’ home.
But the ethos of helping keep young people off the street and on the right track remains as crucial as ever.
The skateboard club officially became part of the Cayman Islands’ Extended After School Programme on Friday. It now attracts around 100 students five days a week at the state-of-the-art Black Pearl skateboard park in Prospect.
Senior police officers and politicians, including Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner David Baines and Deputy Premier Rolston Anglin, visited the park on Friday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
New safety gear and skateboards emblazoned with the police service and the Cayman Islands Department of Education, Training and Employment logos were presented to children during the event.
Beat officers from the Neighbourhood Policing unit are at the park every night providing supervision and support to children. Commissioner Baines said the skateboard club was helping to improve the relationship between the police and the community. He said the idea was to keep young people off the streets and to help them channel their energies into something positive.
“It shows we care for the community,” Mr. Baines said. “It’s not just about making arrests. This has started to build bridges with a section of the community that was growing apart from the police.”
The partnership with the Extended After School Programme is helping bring students from all over the island to the skate park.
Mary Rodrigues, chief officer at the Department of Education, said the after school programme was a major success story and had grown from nothing in the space of a few years to a network of clubs providing constructive activities for more than 1,400 students.
Constable Myers, whose son, Sean, is one of the island’s top young skateboarders, said the sport was a great avenue to get to at-risk youth and speak to them about different issues.
He said: “It all started from a ramp in my backyard which I set up to help get youth off the streets in my West Bay district and it has grown from there. I’m here every night. I try to be like a father figure to the kids, let them know when they did good and help them when they go wrong.”