ORLANDO, Fla. – Andrea Eliscu knows the power of the dragon.
The long time rower and Board of Directors member for the Orlando Rowing Club knew that a bond happens when people are put in the position of teammates, striving toward a common goal.
It was with that knowledge that Dueling Dragons was born.
The program matches at-risk kids with police officers. Together they train as a team in rowing competitions.
News 6 met up with Eliscu on the shores of Lake Fairview as her teams trained for an international dragon boat festival later this month.
Eliscu got the idea while listening to a local police chief speak at a community event. It was the first time she heard the term "invisible kids," kids who haven't gotten into trouble but live in at-risk environments.
"It was like, I can get these kids in a dragon boat because I know how much attention there is between the paddlers," she says. "They're not going to be invisible when they're out here."
In five years 94 kids and 94 cops have gone through the program.
"We have one amazing statistic," Eliscu says. "All of the kids that have completed a season,and a season is ten months long, a long time, they've all stayed in school. No one has dropped their grade point average."
John Demshock nominated Eliscu for the award.
"It's just amazing to see these police officers and these kids working together," he says."That's why I nominated Andrea. She started it and you know, lets actually do something to help these kids and improve relations with police. It's just amazing to watch."
One of those kids is 14-year-old Christopher Durant. He says he's enjoyed getting to know the officers on a more personal level, not just a passing patrol car through his neighborhood.
"The cops are personal with me," he says. "Talking to cops about stuff like history. My favorite subject is history and speaking to some cops about that encourages me to keep on studying."
Orlando Police Department Program Coordinator Joseph Lundy agrees.
"A lot of times when they see police you're in uniform doing proactive work in the community. Out here they're able to paddle and do things with the officers out of uniform. Actually get to know the officers have lives just like they do. They're able to build those relationships," Lundy says. "So when they see them out on the street they say 'hey, that's the officer that I paddle with.'"