SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Some law enforcement officers saw a need to connect with kids, especially in certain neighborhoods of Sioux Falls. So they came up with a plan involving middle school students, police officers and a martial arts studio.

Thanks to a non-profit, the new program is off to a good start.

“So we are going to scoot away you are going to get your knee inside.” JuJitsu instructor Bruce Hoyer leads a group of middle school students and local law enforcement officers through a class.

The program is called “Cops and Kids.”

The Next Edge Academy owner says the idea was born out of conversations with some of his friends who are police officers. They wanted to do something to connect with young people.

“The goal of this is to give them interaction with police officers, but also for them to learn a little bit of self-defense. So for me, self-defense looks very different, in the fact that I want them to control themselves in a high anxiety situation,” said Hoyer.

Hoyer says the classes are designed to teach the kids how to be confident, calm and clear-headed in stressful situations. The program almost never happened because of the Pandemic, but Promising Futures founder Steve Hildebrand heard about it and decided to provide funding.

“You see these kids start to develop real skills very quickly actually, but you also see personal interaction with each other, members of law enforcement and that bond that’s going to take place as they train together over time,” said Hildebrand.

The program runs for six months, one night a week they learn Jujitsu and another night it is boxing.

For some of these kids, it is a confidence builder.

“I was shy and scared because I didn’t know what to do and I got used to it,” said 12-year-old Sherlineda Desir.

John Heupel, Minnehaha County Deputy Sheriff helps instruct.

“You know I think they are going to learn some discipline and they are going to learn to challenge themselves and that contact sport isn’t as scary as it seems,” said Heupel.

This is the first session, and Hildebrand says the word is out at school, they already have a long list of kids who want to sign up for the next 6-month course.