The job of a police officer can be very challenging. Officers deal with unforgiving hours and intense criminal activity and, in some cases, there are serious and persistent divides between police and the communities they serve. But the officers who partner with The Code 3 Association (Code 3) get to see another side of their community. Code 3, a Washington, DC-based non-profit, believes that communities thrive when citizens and police work together, and they focus on connecting law enforcement personnel with residents through programs that bring communities together. 

Through a new partnership, National Park Trust and Code 3 are creating opportunities for DC-area police officers to engage with under-served youth–many of whom are survivors of gun violence and/or have experienced homelessness–to explore the great outdoors and experience the healing qualities of nature. Being in nature and getting kids outside can enhance social behavior, help alleviate stress, promote optimal psychological functioning, and improve recovery from physical trauma.

To help foster these connections, our Youth and Family Programs teams have planned a variety of fun and educational outdoor experiences including tandem kayaking at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (MD), ziplining at Harpers Ferry Adventure Center (WV), and paddling down the Anacostia River in canoes (DC). These experiences break down barriers and build trust between children and police officers. With this trust, kids know that they can safely turn to police officers for support throughout their lives.

Officer Plows engaging in a team-building exercise with kids at Harpers Ferry Adventure Park

What do the kayaking trips, ropes course, river exploration, nature hikes, bird education, and fishing trips mean to the kids in the community I swear to serve, protect, and police? These trips do not just foster positive police and community interactions. They teach me that the youth I interact with in my community are just kids — kids who have seen things beyond imagination that most adults could never appreciate.”

“Life is about facing challenges. On these trips, my kids face fears that otherwise might never have been faced or that they might never have thought themselves capable of conquering. These experiences teach my kids and my community that they matter.[These kids] learn to trust their voice, questions, thoughts, and opinions. These trips give my kids experiences they would never have otherwise, gaining an immeasurable amount of confidence and memories worth keeping or sharing.”


Like National Park Trust’s other youth and family programs, this new partnership provides under-served youth with fully immersive park experiences and removes barriers that often prevent these communities from experiencing parks, including lack of funding and access to transportation.  

“I can’t begin to tell you the impact the field trips provided by the National Park Trust have had on our Code 3 kids. The majority of the kids in our program have never been outside Washington DC city limits, and … the trips that [the Park Trust] has provided have exposed these kids to things they have never experienced.  All of them have a thirst for knowledge and these trips broaden their horizons and introduce them to potential opportunities in their future.”

Joseph Abdalla, Executive Director,  Code 3 Association
Joseph Abdalla pictured kayaking with kids at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (MD)

National Park Trust and Code3 Take Local DC Youth Paddling on the Anacostia River on October 22, 2022

National Park Trust would like to thank the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation for providing the funding for all trips with Code 3. Are you interested in supporting work like this? Donate or learn about more ways to support National Park Trust.