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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Sgt. Craig Littles with the Memphis Police Department knows the Frayser community. He also knows the crime that plagues the area.

The 27-year veteran officer graduated from Trezevant High School.

“Everyone needs someone to get the focused on reality in life and for me it started here as a youth. I grew up in Ridgecrest Apartments.”

Sgt. Littles started a youth sports team in Frayser in 1996. Now he has a permanent home on the campus of Trezevant High for mentors and community stakeholders to connect with the youth.

“Coming back home and starting our first academy here means so much to us and me as a person, a young man and as a police officer as well.”

The Youth Academy of Dreams has been 25 years in the making. Grants from the city and sponsors like Nike, Shelby County and furniture company Spaces along with hours of work from volunteers made it possible.

“Any parent that’s looking for focused staff and individuals that want to mentor and be a positive reflection of their child should come to this organization and this program.”

The Youth Academy’s focus is juvenile crime prevention.

“Those kids looking for something to do whether it’s negative or positive we want to be can alternative source for them.”

Sgt. Littles said much of the trouble with young offenders happens after school dismisses.

“That’s why we’re open the most critical times of the day -3 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the evening Monday through Friday, all day during the summer time.”

The academy is staffed by Memphis police officers and community volunteers. They will mentor students, tutor and teach life skills.

“Our Discovery Skills program is an opportunity for small meal preparation, money management opportunities.”

Renderings show a state-of-the-art game room and classrooms. And of course, the kids can play sports.

“We hope that when children see officers out of uniform in a baseball cap, shorts and a t-shirt with a whistle in their hand on an athletic field or a ball court, we hope that they see the difference – that we’re not just here to police kids.”

Not just policing but also protecting them from the streets and pushing them to their full potential.