Sports Volunteer of the Month: Kent Wojciechoski

Sports Volunteer of the Month - Santa Barbara Police Officer Kent Wojciechoski

Santa Barbara Police Officer Kent Wojciechoski has been an important piece of the mission behind Police Activities League. (SBPAL.org photo)

He’s a familiar figure around town.

And at six-feet, 10 inches tall, he’s hard to miss.

But what makes much-beloved Santa Barbara Police Officer Kent Wojciechoski really stand out in the community, perhaps more than anything else, is his undying commitment to keeping local kids “on the straight and narrow path” with alternative, positive solutions to the pressures of joining gangs.

For his vision and leadership in launching the local Police Activities League (PAL) in 1999; in continuing to serve on its board of directors – currently as its secretary; as a coach and ongoing volunteer and as one its biggest cheerleaders, “Wojo” (as known to nearly all) is our newest Sports Volunteer of the Month.

There’s no shortage of accolades here ….

“He has always placed the youth of the Santa Barbara Community first, with the establishment of the PAL Club, fundraising and developing relationships with significant people who can help influence our youth and community in a positive fashion,” said Curt Pickering, the head coach of the Santa Barbara Breakers professional basketball team.

Among those “influencers” is City of Santa Barbara Administrator Jim Armstrong.

“PAL has done a fantastic job of creating positive activities for youth, especially during the critical hours right after school when kids can get into trouble. The program has made tremendous strides in bringing police officers and kids together in a positive way,” Armstrong said. “Wojo has been there every step of the way and has truly put his heart and soul into making PAL the big success it is today. Whenever you do a ride-along with Wojo, it is amazing all the kids who wave to him and call out his name. He is a tremendous ambassador for our City and the Police Department.”

VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH


Pacific Western Bank in Santa Barbara

This monthly series is made possible by Pacific Western Bank

Volunteers often go under-recognized even though they are extremely important to the athletic community.

So important that many of the sporting events and organizations key to our lives wouldn’t be possible without those who donate their time to assist others.

Presidio Sports and Pacific Western Bank have joined forces to change that. This monthly spotlight series is our way of thanking those that selflessly give themselves for the benefit of many.

To all volunteers making a difference, we salute you.


 

Those “positive activities” to which Armstrong refers includes sports …

Accordingly to the PAL website, its After-School Junior High Sports League  “is free to students at Santa Barbara, La Cumbre, La Colina and Goleta Valley Jr. High Schools. This program is co-sponsored by Santa Barbara PAL, the Santa Barbara School District, the City of Santa Barbara and City of Goleta.”

With a primary focus on soccer and basketball, it offers skills-based training, mentoring and friendly competitions among students at the area’s public junior high schools. Many of the athletes go on to play at the varsity level in high school or for club teams.

Most importantly, it provides team building and “a safe harbor” for kids from ages 12 to 14 because studies show, like Armstrong says, that’s when they are most likely to get into trouble.

It helps break down perceived barriers and builds trust and healthy relationships with local law enforcement….

PAL provides after school sports leagues for basketball and soccer to local junior high students.

PAL provides after school sports leagues for basketball and soccer to local junior high students. Officers Wojo and Adrian Gutierrez pictured here with the Condors.

There’s also summer camp scholarship opportunities, a Santa Barbara Police Explorer Post, a Youth Leadership Council and Big and Little Pals mentoring that continue this yearlong important undertaking in developing character and reinforcing positive behaviors….

“When people think of PAL, they picture Wojo,” says Mayor Helene Schneider. “His commitment and service ensuring that thousands of local kids have access to free fun after school and summer activities is inspiring. His towering presence gives us all assurance that positive fun options are available to all Santa Barbara kids.”

Not bad for a guy who grew up enjoying sports….

He even played college hoops for Texas Tech and played against NBA Hall of Famer and then University of Houston star, Clyde ‘The Glide” Drexler.

But now Wojo is the star, a fact that was obvious to former PAL Grant Coordinator and After-School Sports Coordinator Chelsey Gonzales.

“Knowing Wojo was enough to show me how positively influential he was in Santa Barbara. But it wasn’t until I worked with and for him at PAL that I realized how special and irreplaceable he is in the lives of so many people, youth and adults. He epitomizes the mission statement of PAL every day. Without his hard work, PAL wouldn’t be nearly the success that it has been and continues to be.”

“Wojo takes great pride in the many programs PAL offers to the youth of the community,” shares Laurie Parker, PAL Executive Director. “He puts the kids first and it truly shows by the crowd that flocks to him at every sports event.”

PAL's after-school sports leagues run in the fall and spring.

PAL’s after-school sports leagues run in the fall and spring.

And there are thousands of them who now count Wojo as their, well, pal.

So when it comes to making a gigantic community impact in helping local kids lead productive, healthy and gang-free lives, it’s safe to say that “one of Santa Barbara’s finest” — our reluctant Sports Volunteer of the Month, Kent “Wojo” Wojciechoski — clearly stands “head and shoulders” above the rest …

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In the interest of full journalistic disclosure, writer Randy Weiss also works at Union Bank (aka Santa Barbara Bank & Trust) — a longtime local PAL supporter.

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