The Buffalo Police Department knows a little praise can go a long way toward turning out model citizens.
It's the very reason Police Community Services Division came up with PRAISE -- Police Recognizing Acts of Integrity, Strength and Excellence -- to honor young people who, despite the obstacles, manage to do the right thing.
To make sure those small acts of kindness, courage and inspiration don't go unnoticed, the Police Department held a ceremony in Marine Midland Arena on Monday to bestow a little praise on 23 young people who were given awards to acknowledge their good citizenship.
The award is a pat on the back for youngsters like Wallace Peake Jr., a fourth-grader at Riverside Academy, whose teacher praises him for consistently making good choices and ignoring negative behavior around him.
It's reinforcement for Kelly Quinn, an eighth-grader at Holy Family School, whose principal calls her a role model who refused to bow to peer pressure to join other classmates in destroying another student's work.
It's encouragement for Zulayma Rivera, a sixth-grader at Black Rock Academy and an honor student who demonstrates leadership skills.
Too often police interaction with youth tends to be a less than positive experience for both parties involved, said Crystalea Burns-Pellitier, chief of patrol.
Each of the students honored was nominated by a teacher, principal or some adult who works with children.
The selection of 9-year-old Wallace Peake Jr. couldn't have been a more welcome accomplishment for his grandparents, Jones and Jean Bradberry, who are raising Wallace, his two brothers and a sister in a neighborhood Mrs. Bradberry described as rife with drug activity and shootings.
"His head is always in the books and he makes the honor roll every marking period. I think I must be doing a good job," she said.
Mayor Masiello also was on hand to praise the youngsters and encourage them to try even harder.
"We know that peer pressure is sometimes very difficult to overcome. We appreciate and respect your ability to be leaders instead of followers, to do the right thing instead of the wrong thing, to contribute instead of take," he said.
The others honored Monday were: Anthony Yerry, Bennett Park Montessori; Felicia Newman, Black Rock Academy School 51; Nicole Smith, D'Youville Porter School 3; Jonathan Marrero, Highgate Heights Elementary; Sarah Coyne, Holy Spirit School; Peter Cacossa, Hutchinson Central Technical High School; Bethany Osterstrom, Tiffany Parker and Marquita Davis, all of Leonardo da Vinci.
Also, Jason Suchocki, McKinley High School; Andre Dixon, School 71; Joey Mortellaro, Seneca Vocational; Hillari Laracuente, Monica Kemp and Michael Plandowski, all of Southside Elementary; Jamie Godfrey, West Hertel Academy; Emerald Weber, Bilingual Magnet School 33; Julianne Weber, Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts; Tiffany Monica, Hillview Elementary, Lancaster; and Nicole Monica, Lancaster High School.