By Mark Squibb | Vol 7 No. 10 (May 23, 2019)
“I may not know you, but I know you do an amazing job taking care of our province,” began a thank you card written by Mary Queen of the World grade five student Shaylyn O’Keefe.
O’Keefe, along with Newtown Elementary grade six student Chloe Valli, spent May 8 keeping the City of Mount Pearl safe as Junior Constables.
They were among more than 800 Mount Pearl elementary students participating in the Mount Pearl Citizen’s Crime Prevention Committee annual thank you card initiative.
“Four years ago, the Mount Pearl Citizens Crime Prevention Committee were looking for ways to educate our young people about what police do, and give back to the police,” explained committee chair Rosalind Pratt.
“We wanted a way to give back to the police to say thank you for all the work that they do.”
Pratt said that every single police officer and municipal officer in the Mount Pearl jurisdiction (which Pratt estimates numbers around 100) gets a card.
“Each class gets a list of police officers, so the teacher then assigns a police officer to each child. That means eventually each police officer will get eight or nine cards in an envelope,” she explained.
The committee must shift through the hundreds of cards and select two winners and two runner ups, a near impossible task, said Pratt, but one that is worth the effort.
The two were selected from over 800 students from the four Mount Pearl elementary schools to spend the day with the officers because of their exceptional thank you cards.
The runners up earned a pizza party for their classrooms.
Both girls also received backpacks on behalf of the City and the RNC.
“These kids, they really get it. They know the police work hard. They know that without the police our communities wouldn’t be a safe place to live… We see so many of them that put so much effort into it,” said Pratt. “We’ve been told that they [the officers] keep the cards, that they have them in their lockers or on their desk.”
Chief Joe Boland was on scene at Mount Pearl City Hall Wednesday, May 8, along with Mayor Dave Aker and members of the RCMP and RNC to congratulate the girls.
“Just reading the cards, I think back to when I was their age, and we weren’t having those discussions about police officers and how they fit into the community and how we all interact. And that’s what these children are learning at home, are learning in their schools,” said Boland.
The girls got to spend the day with Constable Ken Wilkins and Municipal Enforcement Officer Danielle Greavette.
“It’s super exciting for the officers to receive theses cards, and it’s really exciting for myself and Danielle to take theses lovely cadets, or officers, around today,” said Wilkins.
The fun-filled day included plans to visit the gun range, see the police car, get ready for a shift, breathe into a Breathalyzer, learn how to fingerprint, see the radar gun, vist the communications office, visit the canine unit and— the highlight for both girls— to visit the horses.
They had everything planned except for donuts, joked Wilkins.
He said the benefits of the program extend much further beyond a single day of activity, and that other community building initiatives, such as the D.A.R.E. program and the thank you card initiative, are essential in building bridges between young people and law enforcement.
“Theses are the girls and boys who are going to be growing up in our communities and we want to make sure that we keep it safe the way they want it,” he explained. “It’s really important that they know where to come for help and that they feel comfortable talking with police officers and municipal enforcement officers in our community.”
Shaylyn’s card included a blue thought bubble with the phrase ‘A cop is…’ surrounded by other bubbles with words suck as brave, strong, and hero, as well as an acronym for police (Powerful people, Outrageous, LifeSavers, Incredible, Change peoples lives, and Extra awesome).
Chloe’s card featured a pop-up officer, colorful hearts, and a message of encouragement.
“They really help out with keeping the city safe and making sure that everybody is safe,” said Shaylyn.
“Police officers are important because without them our streets wouldn’t be as safe as they are, and police officers help people feel safe, everywhere,” said Chloe.