Education Matters: Former Fresno top cop runs summer program for kids

FRESNO COUNTY, California - Inside this mobile home, now used as classrooms, a retired warehouse manager and retired Fresno police chief are helping kids learn.

Ed Winchester retired from his job as Fresno’s top cop 16 years ago. This is what he has been doing ever since.

“About the time I retired, our church was starting an afterschool program. Our facility is right at the church; we are right across the street from Teague Elementary School,” Winchester said. “So we would bring people off the street, and we would help them out with their homework, and that is how I got involved with the children here at the highway city program.”

Highway City is a city within the city of Fresno located near Highway 99 north of Shaw Avenue. It is a poor community with a lot of needs.

It’s a place Winchester and Chuck Downing thought they could do some good.

“I’ve done stuff with kids all my life, but I think we have an obligation as a community to pass on information to kids to help them learn,” said downing, a retired warehouse manager.

Their desire to help young people in this community led them to start a summer program for kids whose families live at the Sierra Mobile Home Park

With the help of Highway City community development, the two men were able to purchase a mobile home to house the summer program – making it possible for the kids to walk there.

They offer an academic program to help youngsters stay on track during the summer months. Students work on their reading and math skills.

Winchester wants to keep these kids in school. He knows education is a strong deterrent to crime. So they work to keep the students focused on their future.

Exposing them to new things is important; their program partners with the community science center to give students hands on experience in chemistry, aerodynamics, and  mechanical engineering.

You can hear the excitement in these kids as they head for a day at river camp. The cost alone would make this experience out of reach for many of them.

The caring shown to these young people by Downing and Winchester does not go unnoticed, they know someone very important, believes they are important

“It’s inspiring that he was the police chief and now he is here teaching us and we get to have someone that was really inspiring to Fresno teach us,” student Diana Rivera said.

Winchester and Downing were recently honored by the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools for the outstanding work they do for students.

Winchester says what he is doing now is no different than his work as police chief, then he served the community – now he says he serves children.

“There is a saying that goes be the change that you want to see in the world,” Winchester said. “So we can’t change everything but we can use our time to make a positive impact on the things that we can.”

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