By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two Minneapolis police officers are dedicating their time and talents to help girls in one of the toughest areas of the city.

Little Earth is a housing project in the heart of Minneapolis. It is home to the American Indian community and has seen its share of problems.

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Little Earth is the heart of the American Indian community in the Twin Cities. It’s a neighborhood with lots of challenges.

“Right here you see alcoholism, you see poverty, you see gang activity, you see violence, you see all of that in his small area on a daily basis,” said Cheryl Goodman.

Cheryl Goodman grew up here, and knows how hard it is being a teenage girl growing up in Little Earth.

“Think of being a normal teenager and times that by 100,” Goodman said.

(credit: CBS)

Goodman is now a Minneapolis police officer.

She along with Officer Colleen Saunby work off the clock, to connect with the young girls of Little Earth, to help break the cycle of poverty, violence and addiction.

“We didn’t have to come out and we didn’t have to look for kids. We were here and they said we want to play,” Goodman said.

So these officers brought the Police Athletic League, or PAL, to Little Earth.

The big challenge was teaching these girls a game they had never played before.

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‘They didn’t know the rules of the sport so they had to learn everything from square one. They didn’t give up and they pulled together as a team and some of the girls say as a family,” said Colleen Saunby.

That spirit of family grew, helping guide the girls to the softball league championship game.

“Once they had faith in each other and faith in us that we are dedicated, committed, that we were here to support them, we just took off from there,” Goodman said.

The girls then took part in a triathlon for indigenous women.

It was there they learned more about team work and what it takes to overcome obstacles in their lives.

“Positive vibes everywhere, they always help us to keep going, to go to school and everything. They help us a lot. They encourage us to do more things,” said Destiny Martin.

For Destiny and Shaina being involved is the key to moving forward.

Officers Goodman and Saunby both know they are working to make these girls powerful leaders in their community.

“They’re athletes, they’re storytellers, they’re poets, they’re singers, they’re artists and you don’t get to see that stuff unless you hang out with them,” Goodman said.

Forty girls are involved in the Police Athletic League, 25 are extremely involved in the mentoring program.

The girls are also working in the community with elders.

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Minneapolis Public Schools and the Indian Education Project recognized their work.

Reg Chapman