Police officers protect … and play
St. Mark’s Youth Enrichment has been a staple in the Dubuque community for the last 30 years. Their before and after school programs provide local school-age kids with interesting and educational programs to give participants experiences they would not normally have in the classroom. This extends beyond the schoolyard property. The Dubuque and surrounding communities, including Loras College, have acted as volunteers, benefactors, and held various positions to keep this non-profit running at full-speed.
One community member, Officer Luke Bock, is one of the many volunteers. He recently delivered an anonymous donation of dodge balls to Marshall Elementary School and spent some time testing them out with the kids. He has been a frequent visitor to the after school program during the quieter parts of his policing shift. The kids light up when he and other police officers come to visit, and they are not passive observers. Whenever they are around, they are reading stories, playing games, and even helping with homework.
Brock’s regular appearances are not just for a break in his shift, but they are for a bigger purpose.
“We set one simple goal at the beginning, we want the kids to be excited when they see us,” Brock said. “I have seen this goal come to fruition. I am greeted with hugs and high fives and excitement that the police officers will be participating in whatever activities are planned for the day.”
With different news stories and protests outpouring from traditional media outlets, the reputation and public perception of police officers has been at an all time low. Understaffed police stations are a problem all over the country, so they do not get as much time as they would like to interact with community members.
These interactions also are important to the officers as well. To Brock and the other police officers in the community, teaching kids to not be afraid of them and to be comfortable coming to them not just in emergencies is crucial.
“I cherish the times when I can spend some time with the community members, especially youth, not because they called 911 when there is an emergency,” Brock said. “My hope is that these interactions can help the St. Mark youth recognize police officers as more than just a uniform, but people that want to engage in their lives.”
To learn more about St. Mark’s Youth Enrichment and their mission and programs, visit their website.