Jeff Emanuel, director of The Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce, was recently invited to a first grade classroom in the Danville Area School District for unique opportunity. With the state’s new PA Future Ready Index entering its second year, schools continue to wrestle with the challenges of providing career acquisition, career retention and Advancement, career awareness and preparation, and entrepreneurship for grades K-12. One first grade teacher at the Danville Primary School rose to the occasion and introduced C.O.P.S. on cops. According to Mrs. Heeter, one day during writing the students were working on their Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation, and Spelling (C.O.P.S.), and a student said they had never met a real police officer. She was surprised to learn this was true for at least half of the class. In addition, some students indicated that was a good thing, as you only met the police when you were bad.
The solution: local law enforcement was invited into class for writing one day. They arrived to see the students in their paper cops hats, writing badges, and they even had stuffed police dogs on their desks. Mrs. Heeter shared that this is the daily uniform for grammar, and excites the children about writing. Cpl. Jonathan Swank (Borough of Danville police), Officer LaRue Brion (Danville School District), Officer Tammy Smith (Mahoning Township Police) and Chief Kerry Parkes (Riverside Borough Police) were introduced and challenged to find the errors in sentences projected on the board about police using their C.O.P.S. The students really enjoyed the challenge of seeing these officers struggle at times.
Next the police were asked to speak about what they do and what they liked most about being police officers. They all agreed interacting with kids and the community was the best part. Of course they shared how they keep the school and surrounding communities safe. They also invited the students to visit them at the station any time to learn more.
Students then had their turn to ask questions. Jeff was amazed by the depth of the questions by these six and seven-year-olds. They asked about police dogs, how fast their cars go, and even what was the most difficult part of their jobs. Chief Parkes shared that dealing with victims and their families can be hard because “you really feel bad for them.” Office Swank said the job can be hard and you need to love doing the job. Officer Smith shared that solving crimes is like putting together a really difficult puzzle, but solving that puzzle makes it exciting. As far as how fast police cars go, they were told fast enough.
The visit wrapped up with snacks of copcorn (aka popcorn), copcakes (aka cupcakes) and patrol fuel (aka blue juice drinks). Officer Smith even brought the students safety activity books, police footballs and mood watches. Mrs. Heeter’s class then distributed bags of snacks for each officer to take back to share. They shared they knew the police spend a lot on time in their cars and wanted them to have snacks to keep their energy up. Of course, no visit would be complete without someone ending up in handcuffs. The students got to see their principal, Dr. Bickhart, put in handcuffs by Officer Brion, and left to stand in front of the class for refusing a cupcake. Not a crime according to our judicial system, but pretty severe to first graders. One student dressed in a SWAT team uniform even slapped some plastic cups on Jeff and hauled him off to jail in the corner of the classroom.
The Foundation director wanted to share this story to show the creative thinking that is going on in our area related to introducing students to careers. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Looking at things from a different angle and taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves can get the job done. Thanks to Mrs. Heeter for inviting Jeff to share in this special morning with the class and thanks to the Danville, Mahoning Township, Danville School District and Riverside Police for their vigilance in our communities and involvement in our children’s schools.