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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s Spring Break for Memphis-Shelby County School students and local organizations are doing their part to ensure children engage in positive activities. 

One agency says they’re teaching kids to take pride in their community.

Trash cans were full at Raines Road Park in Hickory Hill thanks to the hard work of volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Memphis and the Memphis Police department. 

Instead of spending spring break with friends, Kirby High School student Toni Walter is working hard to keep her community clean. She’s one of several students participating in the Memphis Police Department’s Spring Break Clean Up Tour. 

The department’s Community Outreach Program, also known as the C.O.P. Unit, partnered with various organizations and other law enforcement agencies to clean up different parks across the city. 

Officer Parz Boyce said the department wants to work with youth to not only keep communities clean, but come up with new tactics to keep children engaged in positive activities. 

“The kids that congregate in the parks here, they talk about the beer drinking and the trash that’s in the park. They are the future,” Boyce said. “The youth have the answers to a lot of problems that’s going on here in Memphis, and we have some way gotten away from listening to them.”

The rising juvenile crime rate continues to be a topic of discussion among city leaders and youth advocates. Walter said she encourages her peers to stay on the right path.

“You can stay out of trouble. You don’t have to be out in the streets. You can stay out of trouble,” she said.

Jeffrey Dunnigan with the Hickory Hill Boys and Girls Club said he believes to keep kids out of trouble, there has to be open communication.

“Sometimes when they’re in the home setting they may not have that person they can talk to and in the school setting they may not have that person they can talk to. So, it’s important that we be the important role models in their lives and that we provide them someone to look up to,” Dunnigan said.

Memphis Police said they will have more opportunities for youth to partner with police as we move into the summer months.