Those Who Protect Us
GVL / Gabriella Patti
Louie struggles to make a sheriff badge at the arts and crafts table.
Based on their experiences, some children grow up wanting to become law enforcement officers. Others grow up afraid of them. Members of the Grand Valley State University community are continuing their work to spread a positive image of officers to at-risk youth who may entertain negative views of them.
GVSU’s Criminal Justice Students’ Association hosted its third annual “Those Who Protect Us” event on March 22 in the Kirkhof Center. Members of the Pals Student Mentors program brought their siblings, children and mentees to the event.
“We are hosting this event to introduce at-risk youth to law enforcement officers in a positive way,” said Kaylee McWilliams, president of the Criminal Justice Student Association. “Most of the time, when they are in a law enforcement situation, it is in a negative way. Their parents might be getting arrested or they might be taken into custody. This event is to help them gain a positive perspective.”
Grand Valley Police Department officer, Minh Lien, and the coordinator for the GVSU Police Academy, Julie Yunker, were both present to talk to the children about safety and what it means to go into law enforcement.
Lien gave demonstrations of Breathalyzer tests, showed the children drunk goggles, and spoke about neighborhood and driving safety.
“We hope to teach them that law enforcement officials are their friends and positive members of our community, and that maybe in the future they can also be a law enforcement officer,” McWilliams said.
Yunker demonstrated to the children the importance of being physically in shape as a police officer. She coached them through some of the events that recruits are required to do to become part of the police force, including jumps, runs, pushups and sit-ups.
“What I hope that these kids take away from me today is the importance for police officers to be physically fit and the importance not only for them to be able to do things physically, but to make that be a stress reliever and a way to deal with some of the stress of the job,” she said.
She added that the main goal of the event is to give children a better understanding of the people protecting them and to help them gain a better understanding of law officials’ jobs.
Crafts, food and prizes were also available, making the event hands-on and fun for the kids as well as informative. The messages had a positive effect on the children in attendance.
Yunker hopes that the information imparted on the kids will help influence their decisions in the future.
“The exposure gives them something to think about and file away in their subconscious,” she said. “ As they get older, they might start to remember that one event where a police officer spoke and maybe it will inspire them.”