Spotlight On: Sergeant Jose Dingui, The Cops N Kids program

Members of the Cop N Kids program pose for a picture

The Cops N Kids program was initiated over fifteen years ago by Officer Jesus Rosa in efforts to reduce juvenile delinquencies and build stronger relationships with Southbridge’s youth. The program started as a small afterschool basketball league but under the guidance of Sergeant Jose Dingui grew to a year-round program. The Cops N Kids program has been acknowledged as one of the main contributors to the 85% drop in juvenile delinquency rates over the past seven years in Southbridge.

In 2006 the Cops N Kids program expanded over the summer months by participating in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SFSP enabled Cops N Kids to offer lunch to its participants all summer long. That year a grant by Project Bread awarded the program basketball hoops to continue the basketball league that operated during the school year. With an average of 75 youth participants, the program was a success! Sergeant Jose Dingui thus decided to expand the program even further, making it a full day, six week summer program. The program offered kids breakfast and lunch with opportunities to engage in planned academics and athletic activities. In subsequent years, Sergeant Jose Dingui added crime prevention classes, field trips, nutrition education and much more.

The program was originally funded by an education block grant. When funding ran out, Sergeant Jose Dingui approached local businesses to seek additional funding opportunities to keep the program running. As a result of this outreach, the United Lens Company and Hyde/Dexter- Russell Charitable Foundation committed to contributing $10,000 for three years. This contribution enabled the program to continue, speaking to the impact the program had on the community.

When the state pool in Southbridge closed for renovation, the town approached the Cops N’ Kids program to ask if they could shuttle kids to lakes in Sturbridge, allowing the program to grow even larger. Now morning classes are offered, offering topics that range from nutrition to recreation to community gardening. In the afternoon the children are brought to a nearby lake in Sturbridge to swim. To ensure that all children have access to the program a van stops at five different pick up and drop off spots throughout the day.

Sergeant Jose Dingui says the program, “keeps the kids active, healthy, and educated.” He hopes “through the program kids see police officers in a different light. Half the kids coming to the program don’t know right from wrong and it gives them an opportunity to learn.” Born and raised in Southbridge, Sergeant Jose Dingui experienced economic challenges. As he grew up he went to school and completed the exam to become a police officer. Shortly afterwards, he returned to Southbridge to serve the community and is currently serving his 15th year as a police officer. Through his guidance, passion, and commitment, the program has grown to over 125 kids that participate in the program each day. Sergeant Jose Dingui attributes the success of the program to the staff, other dedicated police officers, and his Chief Charette. “It can’t happen without a great staff. They all go the extra mile each day.” “I have to thank Chief Charette for his ongoing commitment to youth programming.” The program really resonated with and positively impacts the youth participants- in fact many of the counselors each year are former youth program participants.

This is a program that affects the whole community in a positive way and positively influences the lives of each youth who participates. Thank you to Sergeant Jose Dingui and the whole Cops N Kids team for your continued commitment and passion for the program.