COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Since early this semester, 23 middle school students at the Columbus Preparatory School for Boys have been receiving a special kind of education — one taught by members of the Columbus Division of Police.

“Across the country, younger and younger kids are getting involved in more and more prolific and violent crime, so being able to engage with them early, to be able to change their decision-making process, into a much more balanced and better decision-making process, is critical for their future,” said Robert Clark, director of Columbus Public Safety.

The program is called TAPS, which stands for Teens and Police Services. Its goal is to build relationships between youth and law enforcement through an 11-week course focusing on personal safety and conflict resolution.

“They’re nervous, they don’t know us, we don’t know them, it’s always, there’s a lot of tension there still, but by the end, they want us to keep coming back,” said Andre Tate, a sergeant with the Columbus Division of Police.

“I wanted to have it, like, every day, in the school days, and it only happened on the Wednesdays so, it felt good, and I want to have them again,” said Raj Pariyar, an eighth grader with Columbus City Preparatory School for Boys.

For Pariyar, the TAPS program has become a fun and educational experience where he learned several skills including personal finance, proper behavior during an interview, and avoiding guns and gang violence.

“We are taking it really seriously,” Pariyar said. “We are answering all the questions and stuff, and they asked us, they said to be very comfortable with them because they’re not here to hurt us and stuff.”

The officers who take part in the program said they’ve noticed the results too, especially when out in the community.

“We’ve been at scenes before, and there’s a TAPS kid there, and they’re like trying to help with the crowd and there like saying hi, and even though it’s a volatile scene, it’s kind of nice to have that one-on-one interaction, where we’re not just strangers on the other side of some scene tape, but we’re actually people that know each other,” Tate said.

During this session, 23 middle school students graduated from the program, and another course with a new group of students will take place next semester.