NYPD works to inspire at-risk girls during early Thanksgiving celebration

NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes hosted a special Thanksgiving talk for at-risk girls on Nov. 22 in hopes of inspiring youth to reach their full potential.

Holmes herself has come a long way, rising up the ranks of the police department to chief of patrol and, as a high-ranking official in law enforcement, she says she hopes to use her platform to aid those in need of mentorship. As a prominent police official and a woman of color, Holmes hosts monthly events in which she discusses the female experience alongside guest speakers to benefit teens coming of age from broken homes, abusive backgrounds, and other hardships. Touching on issues such as domestic abuse with speaker Stephanie McGraw from We all really matter (WARM), the Monday evening event held at One Police Plaza looked to showcase the power of women in 2021 while also offering a surrogate family to those in need for the holiday.

“It’s called Friendsgiving. We’re doing it in lieu of a Thanksgiving dinner. It’s from every precinct and so we have a group of girls, we have mentors — we have several officers that are mentors to the young women — and we pretty much just teach them how to feel good about themselves,” Holmes told amNewYork Metro. 

Chief Holmes and fellow speakers helped empower the young girls with words of inspiration. Photo by Dean Moses

Holmes began the mentorship program back in 2009 when she was working in East New York in hopes of helping her community, but since becoming chief of patrol she has expanded the program to every borough. Focusing on young ladies from the ages 11 to 21 who may have juvenile report records or suffer from abusive family backgrounds, the program looks to uplift them, mentoring them on every facet of life from relationship issues to career goals.

“I think I’m the first woman to cover all 77 precincts now that I think about it. So, with that I tell them like whatever you want to achieve in life, you know it’s there for you. You just have to take the right steps. No one’s saying it’s going to be easy, but it’s achievable. So that’s the message I try and deliver to them,” Holmes explained.

The event assured girls in attendance that the NYPD is their extended family. Photo by Dean Moses
Stephanie McGraw from We all really matter (WARM). Photo by Dean Moses

The chief likewise affirmed that while some of the girls may wish to become a police officer one day, that is not the goal of the program. The NYPD mentors strive to aid the youth with fulfilling their dreams, whatever that could be. It is with this in mind that the NYPD also hosts guest speakers such as Tina Pinnock, a Jamaican dancehall singer and songwriter known as HoodCelebrityy who told amNewYork that the opportunity to offer career advice means the world to her.

“Some people don’t believe they can do it. I was the girl that used to work in a clothing store. I didn’t have enough money to take care of myself. So, if I can do it and make it to where I’m at today, they can do it as well. It doesn’t matter about your skin color, it doesn’t matter about your nationality or where you from,” Pinnock said.

The events are not just about education though. With some of the youth not able to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional sense, the NYPD mentors looked to become a surrogate family as they dined with the teens and young adults at police headquarters and just talked.

The girls were told that they can achieve their dreams with hard work and determination. Photo by Dean Moses

“Some of them have families, some don’t have the family support that they so rightfully deserve. So as a result of such it just gives them a sense of being that someone loves them, someone cares. And that’s the message we really want to push that they matter. Yeah, life has a funny way of treating people that come from disenfranchised communities or certain economic status, and we want them to know that they matter,” Holmes said.