Exeter Police program steers students to safety

By Jamie Hunt

Impatience and excitement was palpable from a crowd of over 240 third grade students, as two gleaming bicycles stood waiting for new owners near the stage, along with helmets and and a table full of certificates for the graduation ceremony from the School Safety Program at Rocky Hill Elementary School.

Chief Cliff Bush, Officer Paul Walker, and Exeter's Mayor Charlie Norman were gathered with &#8220Officer Bill” Phillips to present the awards and certificates to the children and teachers, along with Principal Jessica Bradshaw.

&#8220Thank you for your attention and kindness to me at school,” said Phillips to the students and teachers. He then presented the police department's certificates of appreciation to the following classes: Lisette Anaya, Shandee Baynes, Stan Dillon, Nancy Ferguson, Cassie Hulsey, Patty Hylton, Kathy Rios, Leti Robles, and Darcelle Snodgrass.

There was a bicycle rodeo that tested the students safety skills where they had to navigate through five obstacles at the end of the 10 lesson course of Elementary School Safety.

The nine students who had the highest score in the bicycle rodeo, were presented with helmets at the graduation ceremony. Phillips and the safety team put together an essay for the third grade students which he said was optional, but over 196 participated in the contest. There was a committee of five judges who had to come up with a winner out of the whole third grade, Phillips said. The contest was so close that a second award was given.

Brittany Alvarez was the first place winner. She received a medal, a certificate of accomplishment and a beautiful new bicycle. Second place was won by Sarah Dreyer.

Ice cream and cake part of the graduation surprise was then handed out to all the excited and eager third graders.

&#8220You can tell what a great bunch of kids they are just by reading their essays,” Chief Cliff Bush said, &#8220They paid attention in class, and their writing and skills and penmanship are just outstanding for their grade level.”

Jessica Bradshaw, Rocky Hill principal, said that Officer Bill came during recess and spent time with the students on the playground and worked with them in the classroom.

&#8220The program is fabulous for the kids,” Bradshaw said, &#8220The school hasn't had to do anything, except give Officer Bill the time. He has done everything. He has planned and taught the lessons, he planned the bicycle rodeo, the safety assembly, and the graduation assembly, and even the volunteers.”

Phillips said that the program's books, materials, certificates, helmets and bicycles were paid for by a grant from the Exeter Community Health Fund.

The safety course consisted not just of wheel safety and equipment. Phillips said that they spent a lot of time on contemporary issues that would effect the students.

&#8220We wanted to teach more than just drugs and alcohol awareness,” Phillips said. &#8220We wanted to teach the kids life skills. We taught (about) self-esteem, peer pressure, bullying, stranger-danger, and wheel safety for bicycles, skateboards, skates, and scooters. We held a bicycle rodeo where the students put to practice what they learned in the classroom; stopping properly at stop signs and using hand signals.

Phillips said that the safety class besides being about safety on wheeled bicycles and other wheeled equipment, the class also about the protective equipment necessary for kids to wear for skates, skateboards, and scooters.

Phillips said that helmets must be worn at all times when riding any wheeled means of locomotion. Phillips taught the students about other dangers that they need to be aware of.

&#8220We spent a lot of time on stranger-danger which included the proper use of 911. Most people don't know that you can use 911 from any phone.” Phillips said. Phillips taught the kids about the ploys pedophiles like to use to get kids within arms reach, and taught the kids not to approach strangers. He said that they had done a lot of role playing throughout the course so that the lessons would have an impact on the students. Phillips said that they had taught the kids to establish secret codes with their families and to ask for the secret code if someone tried to pick them up from school; and if the secret code was not known by the person, to run.

Phillips said they spent a lot of time on self-esteem, and he felt that those classes were some of the most successful.

&#8220Our philosophy is to get with the kids at least twice. So third graders this year, will be presented with another class as fifth graders with appropriate topics.

&#8220We are developing such a bond with the kids from third grade that they will look forward to seeing us in fifth grade,” Phillips said. &#8220Our ultimate goal is to include seventh grades in this program, so that hopefully the kids will be open to listening to us.” Phillips hopes that the kids will remember what they have learned, and that they will learn to trust the police, because they will remember him and what he taught them. That the kids when they get older will remember Phillips positive influence. &#8220Having a small town, hopefully, we'll be able to see all the kids.” Phillips said.

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