PILOT MOUNTAIN — Four new Student Resource Officers (SROs) joined the ranks of those preparing for students returning to county schools last week during the district’s annual convocation.
The group shares the credo to “See, listen, care.”
The new officers are Steve Boone (at Central Middle), Travis Sechrist (Gentry Middle), Chad Hutchens (Meadowview Middle) and Mickey Southern at Surry Central High School.
Boone and Hutchens, along with veteran Delinda Kyle admitted they were initially drawn to the work because they enjoy working with kids. Hutchens, like some of the other veteran sheriff’s deputies, returns to the position after around five years as a detective. He had previously served for 10 years as an SRO.
“It’s a powerful thing to be a positive influence,” said Hutchens. “You can see the progress.” He said establishing these connections often has far ranging results with many of the SROs benefiting from their charges, who return to the system as parents with their children and tell the officers how important they were in their own development.
The officers agreed the SRO program’s beginning came from a philosophy now referred to as community policing and see many other benefits other than preventing juvenile delinquency by promoting positive relations between youth and law enforcement. They say the expansion into middle schools is a natural extension of the ongoing program and are enthusiastic about reaching more students earlier in their academic careers.
Kyle said they have come to view themselves as more than a positive role model and are focused on being a resource for students, teachers, administrators and parents. She agreed with Hutchens that a good change is often seen in children from their freshman year to seniors and how they relate to others.
“It is so wonderful to get that high five (from a student) in the hallway,” said Kyle. “Students remember you.”
The officers agreed the killings at Columbine and Sandy Hook had an effect on their mission and said additional training centered on increased awareness, safety and the school and community as a whole.
“We all have a passion to do a job,” said Hutchens. “You have to have the right people in the right place for this to work.”
Sheriff Graham Atkins agrees with Hutchens’ sentiment and doesn’t want to miss an opportunity to point out cooperation from Raleigh and Surry County made the expansion possible.
“I want to give the credit for this to the General Assembly and the county commissioners,” said Atkinson. “It is very much a partnership. The district applied for a matching grant which the commissioners backed to get this. The commissioners have also planned ahead for when the grant runs out. We couldn’t have done this if they hadn’t been willing to work with us.”
Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources Charles Graham said the effort secured a $160,000 grant with the same matched by the county. This pays for all the equipment for the officers.
Reach David Broyles at 336-415-4739 or on Twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.