2024 Education Magazine

Page 40 Excellence In Education Lincoln Daily News January 2024 Walk through the halls on any given day in the Mt. Pulaski Schools and you will more than likely see a police officer laughing, chatting with students, and providing quick, yet meaningful, advice. Officer Josh Pharis, life-long resident of Mount Pulaski, has returned to his roots to work side-by-side with administrators, faculty, and staff in his role of Student Resource Officer (SRO). For the past three years, Officer Pharis has helped to mentor our youth on a variety of topics. He teaches about school safety, substance abuse, traffic safety and a gamut of other age-appropriate issues. His role is to primarily foster a solid, working relationship between law enforcement and the youth in our community. He helps to provide a safe environment for the students not only in terms of physical safety but emotional safety as well. He finds the job offers many positive aspects. Namely he believes that “seeing our youth grow up and become citizens who give back and make right decisions” is one of the perks. Having a role in assisting those students is rewarding. Officer Pharis is regularly in the lunchroom talking with students and building relationships all the while dropping seeds of inspiration into the conversations. Mt Pulaski SRO returns to his roots to help grow strong, responsible youth in the community He recognizes that not every day is blissful. One of the hardest parts of his role is “having to have difficult conversations with kids in whom he is personally invested.” When he sees an area of concern or is alerted to a problem, the hard discussions are tough because he knows their parents and often grandparents. Yet, he realizes that having such conversations are necessary in order to continue to grow our community in a positive way. In order to become an SRO, officers are required to have a minimum additional 40 hours of training through the state of Illinois. Coursework includes teaching techniques, mentoring strategies and youth psychology. Officer Pharis opted for the 80-hour training in order to offer more depth to his position. The students are clearly positively impacted by his presence and the benefits of his role in the district have created a ripple effect to those around him. He has also worked with the driver education teacher, Mr. Patrick Hewitt, to show students the dangers of drinking and driving and to relay the harsh punishments the state of Illinois has in effect for offenders. In addition, he helps the school counselor, Miss Melanie Hinson, to present lessons on social emotional learning. Those topics vary from repercussions of hosting an underage party to knowing who to ask and where to go for help should a student identify as having a substance abuse issue. The positive impact Officer Pharis has on our youth is duly noted and MPCUSD #23 is grateful for his expertise and daily presence in our school buildings. Article by: Linda Smith, MPHS Instructional Coach