Inspiring Toledo youth to live their best lives
Sergeant Ron Paris, while a big presence, is a kind and unassuming man. In fact, when talking about his life and career he cites that the best advice he ever received was to “Always be humble…never look down upon those who are going through their own issues.” Although Sergeant Paris is the humblest of men, he has made a huge impact on the youth he serves as director of the Toledo-Lucas County Police Athletic League Program, (PAL).
Sergeant Paris was a star athlete at Rogers High School in the early 80s and went on to play basketball in the Marines. During his 12 year military career, he served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield. The leadership training he received as a Marine prepared him for his most important roles — as a father to his three children, and father figure to the youth in the PAL program.
One child at a time
Under Sargeant Paris’ leadership, the PAL program serves underprivileged Toledo youth, age 7-17, and “mentors future leaders one child at a time.” Once youth are accepted into the program, Sergeant Paris coordinates with guidance counselors and tutors to come up with an individual plan, tailored to each youth’s specific needs. Through athletics and other activities, PAL aims to help each participant find their best path.
And PAL has illuminated the way for some noteworthy paths. South Carolina star point guard and Olympic hopeful Zia Cooke, U.S. National Heavyweight Champion Boxer Jared Anderson and NFL Quarterback DeShone Kizer all were PAL program participants who have gone on to great accomplishments. Sargeant Paris points out that, while these graduates are inspirational, the emphasis is on the youth in the program who have overcome adversity to graduate from high school, continue on to college, avoid drug use, gang violence and teen pregnancy. He stresses that these young people also deserve recognition as their admirable choices send ripples of success through generations within their families.
Currently, the PAL program is widening its reach. While competitive sports such as basketball, baseball, soccer and volleyball have been staples of the police athletic league, Paris’ programs also include the Polished Emerald Project, a mentoring program for girls, or the Books Before Hoops program which places academics first and picking up a basketball second. Sergeant Paris has broadened PAL programming to reach out to those who are interested in things other than sports. “We see the potential in all our youth and emphasize the many ways they can strive to be a professional.”
Lending an Ear
Paris emphasizes the importance of his role as a listener, “(w)e see a lot of depression in our youth. We allow the kids to vent and express themselves rather than to try to supply the answers for them.” Listening is tuned in to the parents of these youth as well. Sergeant Paris believes the concerns of many regarding trust in police can be overcome with individual conversation, taking the time to listen and meeting people on a personal level.
The list of Paris’ dreams for PAL is long. The potential he sees in the youth who participate in PAL keeps Paris passionate about finding new opportunities, seeking funding and reaching out to businesses and other non-profits as partners. As a humble father figure, he is driven daily by this key question, “How can we best help the kids in the community we serve?”
PAL is a 501(c)(3) organization that relies on donations for 100% of its funding. For information on how to get involved as a volunteer or to donate, go to Toledopal.org or call Sargeant Paris at 419-214-9022.
Favorite way to unwind: Working out at Planet Fitness after work and watching ESPN.
What’s on your bucket list? I would love to go see an OSU football game in person.
To what do you attribute your personal success? Growing up in a two parent home with engaged parents and a strong dad in the house.
What about the success of PAL? We wouldn’t exist without the tireless efforts of our many volunteers, Officer Kimberly Darrington and tutor Hannah Paul. Toledo Police Chief George Kral and former Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp’s support has been instrumental in helping us broaden our reach.
Favorite book? Barack Obama’s books. I am inspired by his journey from humble beginnings to President, in spite of the adversities
he had to endure.
What advice would you give to the younger you? – Get ready. You are going to meet some great people on this journey of life.
Words you live by: Set the example. Treat others the way you would like to be treated and everything else will fall into place.