Police Capt. John Wilczynski sat across from 11-year-old Vaughn Weldon, eating sweet potatoes and fried chicken and shooting the breeze.
"You a Phillies fan?" Wilczynski asked. The boy, who said he wants to be a cop, nodded shyly, and soon it became clear they shared more than an affinity for the Phillies and fried chicken.
"It's good for them to sit with us and see we're normal people trying to work hard and keep them safe," Wilcynski said.
The youngster and Wilcynski, a captain in the Center City District, headquartered at 6th and Chestnut, met yesterday during a police-appreciation lunch hosted by students from the nearby Mathematics Civics & Sciences Charter School at the Fraternal Order of Police headquarters, Broad and Spring Garden streets.
The luncheon was for officers in the 6th District (headquartered at 11th and Winter streets in Chinatown) and 9th District (20th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue), but was part of a larger initiative to promote appreciation for police.
Students also are working with City Councilman Frank Rizzo to introduce a resolution that would make the last Thursday of May Philadelphia Police Officers Appreciation Day.
"Over the past few years a bunch of police officers have been killed, and we have to show that we do care for them," said junior Jessica Rose-Morgan, who serenaded officers with a song, "There is no way I can live without you."
Veronica Joyner, the school's founder and chief administrative officer, said she hopes the luncheon will help students feel closer to the men and women in blue.
"When I went to school . . . police officers . . . were thought of as part of our family, and we learned to respect them and as a result to respect authority," she said. "But, today we don't see that."
The 1,000 students at MCSC raised $1,000 to host the lunch, which featured poetry readings, singing and a citation presented to the school by a representative from Rizzo's office.
Students also published and distributed a book, "Police Officers are Heroes," which includes student entries dedicated to officers.
"We feel very welcomed and appreciated [today] by the kids," Sgt. Drew Heinzeroth, of the 9th District, said yesterday. "I think sometimes they see a uniform and feel threatened, but when we're sitting here, eating chicken fingers together, it makes us easier to relate to." *