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Greenburgh PBA Program @ RJB

Greenburgh PBA @ RJB Program

Three Greenburgh Central School District alumni, and longtime friends, Ed Davino, Jason Perry, and Dave Vandiver, worked together to develop an afterschool program for RJB students that packs more than just a punch; it builds character and deepens the strong bonds of this community.

Ed Davino and Jason Perry are both detectives with the Greenburgh Police Department and Dt. Davino is head of the local Police Benevolent Association. They approached Dave "Coach" Vandiver, Physical Education teacher at RJB, in 2020 with the idea of partnering together to develop a program for students during the summer of quarantine. They saw the need to create an opportunity to get them out of their homes and get them moving in a safe way. Within a week, these three had a plan to put an outdoor activity program quickly into action. Dt. Perry, who relayed with a laugh that no one knew they were coming. He remembers the first day vividly. “Dave was on a bullhorn in front of two of our housing buildings at 8 a.m. instructing the students to get up, get outside, and join them for physical activities.”  At first, only 14 students joined, but by the end of the day, all of the 30 students who lived in the buildings took part.

This impromptu program was so popular with students, and the feedback so positive, that Dt. Davino, Dt. Perry and Mr. Vandiver knew they had to do more for students in their community. Dt. Perry openly shared his perspective on this pull toward helping in the community, “My mother was a long-time employee in this town, and worked in the community center. My mom has always been a community supporter. Putting community first, I don't know anything else. My friends felt the same. Dave has been doing the same thing with kids. Whatever you need, Dave’s there. There was a need and we filled it.”

In 2021, the two Greenburgh Detectives were on a mission to build upon what they did in the summer of 2020. They set out to find a designated facility for what they hoped would become a pilot program for the students of Greenburgh. Another police officer suggested Belmars Gym, located at 5 Prospect Avenue in White Plains, not far from the school. When they met with the owner, Toni Mafes, Dt. Perry said her immediate response was, “We always love to give back. What do you need us to do?”

With the guidance of Dt. Davino, and funded by the Greenburgh PBA, the Belmars program ran this year from May 5–June 9 on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school from 3:30–4:45 p.m. The program was free for the R.J.B students in grades 4–6 who participated. Mr. Vandiver worked with the administration and GCSD transportation department to facilitate getting them there twice a week, and Frank Gunn, Director of Transportation at GCSD, made sure to make it happen.

At the program, Toni Mafes and her instructors taught the students Muay Thai (a form of self-defense), boxing and footwork drills, as well as body and strength training. But most of all, these students learned about teamwork and character building. Dt. Davino explained to the students that through “Team-building games, we learn to trust each other and trust ourselves.” He named the program LEO. And he explained why during the end-of-program celebration at Belmars on June 9, “LEO stands for law enforcement officer, but we named the program LEO to stand for leading, educating, and opening minds. And it’s not just your minds, we need to open our minds as much as yours. A little patience and a little respect go a long way.”

During the celebration, the students shared what they liked most about the program. Among their favorite parts were meditation, playing 'ships and sailors,' boxing, and getting to know each other. The instructors at Belmars Gym all agreed that their favorite part was getting to know the students, and seeing how much better they got from the first to the last class. Dave Vandiver told them that he was “most proud that no one quit, and that everyone was so well-behaved. I see so much potential in every single one of you.”  At the end of the last class, the R.J.B students presented the instructors with a big handmade “thank you” sign and gave them each a gift. The students received t-shirts from Dt. Davino and the Greenburgh PBA with the message: Racism has NO Jurisdiction Here.

Dt. Davino, Dt. Perry and Mr. Vandiver, all long-time members of the community are each, in their own way, the very definition of a teacher. They understand the importance of togetherness and connection and continue to work together to keep this community as tight-knit as they have always known it to be. When Dt. Perry is told by others that what he is doing is “amazing”. His response is “When you break it down, it’s not all that amazing what we intended to do. I don’t look at it as amazing. It was a need that needed to be filled. We had confidence that we could do something. In this country, with regards to strained community relationships, these horrible things don’t seem to happen here. Part of it is we still have a great, decent group of people that are all from this area.”