About 50 or so students from Washington Elementary School shared what they had learned over 12 weeks about character with Madera police officers Friday — along with candy bags — before taking a tour of department headquarters.
The students included a fourth grade class and student council members ranging from fourth through sixth grades. The students worked with eight volunteer mentors as part of Madera’s chapter of the Teach One to Lead One program. The national program teaches social principles and leadership skills to at-risk youths.
“Teach One to Lead One has taught us integrity is doing the right thing even when nobody is looking,” student Jose Vasquez explained on a sign he showed officers. “Example: say you were on the playground. You started cussing and someone told on you, so then you tell the truth. You got in trouble, but you would’ve got more in trouble by lying. Tell the truth!”
The fourth grade class sacrificed their recesses this week to prepare “survival kits” for Madera’s police officers. “They’re little treat bags with Mounds (candy) bars for the mounds of courage they have to show, and other things like that,” said executive director Theresa Farmer of Teach One to Lead One.
After 12 lessons on character across three months, participants devote a week to a service project, followed by a week to celebrate completing the program.
“The student council wanted to do a presentation on what Teach One to Lead One is all about and what they’ve learned to share that with the police department as well,” Farmer said. “I think the reason they really wanted to do something for the police department … (is partly because) the Chief of Police Steve Frazier is a mentor for them at the student council group at Washington Elementary.”
Inside the police department, the students carried handwritten signs explaining the principles taught by the program, such as respect for others, self-control, courage, humility, compassion, teamwork and honor.
They’re “things we don’t see much in our culture anymore, but they’re vital for our kids to succeed and do well,” Farmer said. “That’s why we really want to target at-risk kids. They need to know there’s better choices they can make, better attitudes they can have, and ways to break out of any hopeless ruts that they feel they are in.”
After speaking to police, the students toured the inner workings of the department headquarters, from the dimly lit dispatch room to the special investigations unit. There Sgt. Josiah Arnold explained the skills and principles they rely on in their work – such as math and honesty. He and Detective Mark Adams showed off the unit’s external armor carrier, robot and drone. SWAT Cpl. Matt McCombs later let students explore the armored van and equipment he uses. The finale of the students’ day was an encounter with K-9 Officer Sean Plymale and his partner Guns, a 3-year-old German-trained Malanois police dog.
The local Teach One to Lead One program has 19 mentors in all as well as six members on its board. Nearly all those carrying out the program are volunteers, and the cost of materials is covered by the school district and local donors. Volunteers must be active members of a local church willing to undergo a certification process, background check and hands-on training.
“The tricky part is we are faith based but, because we go into the (public) schools, we can’t express our faith. There’s a very fine line that we have to walk,” said Farmer.
Nonetheless, Farmer feels the program is worth that tricky walk.
“It’s just a great way to really encourage the kids in our community,” Farmer said. “It’s a great way to help them live to their best potential. That’s what I see. We tend to write off a lot of these kids. We just need the community to step up and let them know they matter and have purpose and potential.”