Jamaica teen takes top prize in NYPD essay-writing contest

Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban and Commander for the Day Tina Perumal
Photo courtesy of Kerri Edge

A Jamaica teen was honored by the NYPD at One Police Plaza this week for her essay-writing ability.

Tina Perumal, 18, bested 300 teens vying for an award in the Police Athletic League-NYPD annual essay competition. She snagged the prestigious NYPD Commander Award, one of a handful of NYPD awards for essay writing.  The contest was open to all New York City students in grades 9-12.

Perumal was honored on Tuesday during the Police Commissioner for a Day Ceremony. Her essay was noteworthy since it was based on the concept of her being appointed police commissioner, where she used the high-ranking position to bring together a task force to combat child neglect.

Perumal said the essay was inspired by a close friend who went through a traumatic childhood experience, which prompted her to focus on the topic. “My essay was basically helping to bring back child safety and bring attention to the child safety that doesn’t really get looked at or recognized,” she said. 

Perumal, a senior at Martin Van Buren High School, plans to attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the fall. She grew up watching shows such as “Law and Order” and other crime series, and now plans to be a police officer. “That’s where my mind and my heart has always been set on,” she said. “I just also want to help everybody around me and just protect everyone.”

When she is not spending time writing award-winning essays, Perumal works as an administrative intern at Life Camp’s Creative Arts Lab. She has been working with the organization since 2022 and oversees middle and elementary school students in the program. Perumal said her time working at Life Camp has inspired her to expand her own world view.

“They provide a lot of opportunities for you to get yourself out there. To be something you never saw yourself becoming or changing yourself that you never saw yourself changing to be,” she said. Currently, Perumal is working with staff on raising funds for a trip to Six Flags so they can celebrate the work they have done at the Creative Arts Lab over the past two years.

Life Camp’s mission is to provide youth and families in Southeast Queens impacted by gun violence with tools to stay in school and out of the criminal justice system. The organization offers programs to affected youngsters and their families as part of the initiative.

The Creative Arts Lab is a program sponsored by Life Camp targeting youth aged 12-24. The lab offers educational programs focused on arts education including DJing, composition and recording, theater, dance, painting and an array of other artistic mediums.