“The old saying, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is so true. I see a thousand words, stories in all these pictures I’m about to share.
I have been a police officer for the last 20 years and most of my career was spent as a patrol officer, until about 8 years ago when I found my passion and began to truly understand why I became a police officer. I enjoyed being a patrol officer but when I got the opportunity to go into the School Resource Unit, I took it because I could merge two of my loves together: the love of working with youth and the love of being a police officer, all the while getting to help people during some of their worst times.
I started out working in middle schools, which was nice, but I knew I eventually wanted to end up in a High School. I loved the thought of getting to know students as freshmen and being able to see them grow over the next four years until they graduate as seniors and into adulthood. Finally, during the 2012/2013 school year, I got the opportunity to work in a High School. I knew that in this environment there would be some students I would never get the opportunity to work with, some students I would get to work with, and then, there would be the students I would work with so closely they become like one of my own. I’d love to introduce you to one of these students. She would leave a lasting impression on me. She would challenge me, as I would challenge her, and a bond would be formed that would help both of us to become better people.
The young lady in these pictures is that student, Katelyn. Our interactions started during her freshman year. Her father walked into my office absolutely lost and at his wits-end. His daughter had started to drink and hang out with the wrong crowd and had received her first official charge for destruction of property. She was spiraling. He had no clue what to do or how to help his daughter. I listened to him and I told him that I would meet with her and then get back to him. I called her down to my office and met with her for an hour or so. As she walked into my office, my first impression of her was one of someone that was dealing with a lot of unexplained hurt, someone looking for a place to belong. I found her incredibly engaging, but extremely lost. She was trying to find her way in a very difficult situation but was so young and had no idea which way was up. I told her I would be available to help her work through her situations and struggles. I told her I would be here every day, and she was more than welcome to come see me, talk to me, or even just come into my office to get away from school and life in general. As we talked and I offered the help that I could, I could see that she was starting to perk up, but she kept the same cautious wall up.
We got along well throughout our daily interactions. She would come to see me very excited and having a great day, and she would come to see me when she was down in the dumps and needed a pick-me-up. Somedays she left angry because she didn’t like what I had to say; you see, I said what I meant and meant what I said. She didn’t like the consistency that I represented, but at the same time she craved it. One day became the turning point in our working relationship; I knew after that, I would be in her life for a long time. She had come into to my office because she had been kicked out of her class by the teacher. I told her she needed to go to her administrator, and she refused. She told me she was leaving school, so I told her if she left school, I would call her father and she would be suspended from school. She left my office with the promise that she was headed to the administrator, but I knew better. I followed her on the cameras and watched her leave the building and eventually the property. I did what I said I would do; I notified her administrator and called her father.
She was so angry with me that she refused to come see me for about a week. I really struggled during this time, I knew she needed someone in her corner, but now she was not coming to see me because I drew the hard line and I stuck to it. I worried that she would never come back. I talked with a trusted co-worker and she assured me this was exactly what she needed, to give her time to process what happened. My co-worker assured me she would be back because she needed the consistency I represented. It did not mean she liked that she needed it, but she would come back for it and I would then be able to help her more because she knew I would be consistent.
She did finally come back to see me, and we had a long talk. We talked about how mad she was because I ‘ratted her out’ and because she got in trouble. I was able to share with her that she could always count on me to be consistent and if I said I would do something, then I would do it. I was able to explain to her that it was not something I wanted to do, but it was something I had to do. I also explained to her I was not like everyone else currently in her life. I do not draw lines and then move them because it is uncomfortable for me or for her. After this conversation, I could not stop her from coming to my office. It remained a safe and consistent space for her throughout the remainder of her high school career. I was happy that she trusted me enough to remain a constant in her life.
I was there to see her walk across stage and graduate and that was probably one of the proudest moments of my career as well as one of the hardest moments. Seeing her in her graduation cap and gown I was filled with excitement because she had accomplished a goal that I knew was possible, but she wasn’t sure. I was filled with worry because I was not sure she was ready to go into this big scary world. I was also filled with selfishness because I wasn’t going to be able to see her everyday next school year. As she walked across that stage to get her diploma, I was so proud of her and all her accomplishments. As she grabbed her diploma and walked down the stairs to her seat, all the worry left me. I knew she had the opportunity and capability to change the world. No longer was she this lost girl looking for a place to belong, but she was now a strong, independent young lady ready to take on the world ahead of her. Over the last four years, she was able to work through her hurt and pain. She was able to fill her toolbox with all the tools she would need to face this world and do anything she wanted to do.
I’d love to end this story here and tell you she went on to conquer the world, but that didn’t happen. She found herself still wrestling with things and struggling with things out in the real world, but because of that bond we built in high school, she knew right where I was and reached out. These post high school struggles were some of the worst, but I remained constantly available. When she reached out, I made sure I was available because I knew the strength she had inside; she just needed someone to believe in her until she could believe herself. I have been there when she needed a ride to a meeting, there when she needed to chat, there when she needed to grab a bite to eat, there when she wanted to join my family at church. I refused to give up on her because I believe I was put on this earth to help people in need. She was in need, but she didn’t want to be, she wanted to be better, and I was here for her.
This final picture was taken on Christmas Eve 2019, which is 7 years after our first meeting. This picture means so much to both of us, because it represents her strength, her health, and it shows me that all the time spent and consistency showed matters, that love matters. This young lady is now living with her boyfriend and her beautiful son. She has a full-time job and is thriving at life. We are still in contact at least once a week, we get together as a family as often as we can for our favorite Mexican food, and she is doing so well.
Through this relationship, I have learned a lot about being a school resource officer, but more importantly, I have learned about relationships with people. All people need from you is to be consistent, love hard, and never give up when you see potential. I am beyond proud and so thankful to work in a job where I can impact those around me and be impacted in return. ”
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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cpl. CJ Eslick of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. You can follow his journey on Instagram and YouTube, and Katelyn’s journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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