PRO making impact at B-UMS

BUCKHANNON   After being honored for the 2016-2017 school year as Prevention Resource Officer of the Year, Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School’s PRO is still running full speed ahead.

Cpl. C.J. Day, also a 15-year veteran of the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department and a technical sergeant in the West Virginia Air National Guard, has started a running club at the school that meets twice weekly after school.

This is the sixth year for a Prevention Resource Officer position at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and for the last four years, the students in the building only know having a PRO in the building.

Having the position at the school, and Day in particular, has added a positive role model and an extra educator for the students, according to principal Renee Warner.

“I think probably one of the biggest things is the relationship the kids have with law enforcement,” she said. “We didn’t want C.J. to be seen as an enforcer but rather as another resource. C.J.’s not a disciplinarian – that’s the role of the principals. Our biggest issue is the disruptive and disrespectful behaviors.

“What I like to see is when we get those kids in those areas to form a relationship with C.J. to see if there is some kind of mentoring he can do with our high-fliers. It’s been very effective in the past.”

The principal says the visibility of having Day in a uniform as well as his law enforcement knowledge is helpful at B-UMS.

“Anytime we have an extra set of eyes and ears, it’s a good thing,” she said. “He is a tech guru so he is able to pull up our video cameras and help us with our investigations. He has a great rapport with all three principals and works well with us and the whole staff. They often will approach him first if there is an issue that they think he might be able to intercede in.

“When we talk about legal issues with our kids, we have the persona to back it up and the legal knowledge,” she said. “When we meet with our kids about cyber bullying, he can give code and talk about what laws are being violated, what the penalties are and what will be the next steps.”

As part of Day’s role, he visits classes and talked with students on topics from addiction to other legal issues, conflict management with some small groups and more.

“Really, you want the kids to see officers in a positive light and that is what I think has happened,” she said. “He is a member of our staff to them. He wears a uniform and carries a gun, but they have great respect for that. I think that has been the greatest impact.”

The students interact with Day in the hallways and lunch and at school functions.

He has also become someone the students will go to for help with issues or when they need to talk.

“Kids love to talk to him,” Warner said. “There are some great relationships forming. He has a great rapport with kids.”

Parents have also come to view Day as a resource.

“He takes a lot of reports when families are dealing with social media issues that don’t necessarily bleed over into school,” she said. “We are able to refer them to C.J. for the legal aspect which is nice.”

Day added, “I’ve had parents contact me that they are not sure what to do and directed them in how to handle these situations. Until they would cross over into something we would need to enforce, I like to let them take the first steps to control it.”

Social media issues in the days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and more, are one of the biggest issues that Day deals with.

In the classroom, Day stresses the need for students to be savvy on these social media platforms,

“Basically, my point is not to post or say anything that you wouldn’t want to say in front of your parents,” he said. “I stress the line on where the law is and also things they can do for their own safety when it comes to online predators. There are so many fake accounts out there, so it’s about protecting themselves.”

The grant committee in Charleston which oversees the PRO program and regional liaisons choose one Prevention Resource Officer for the year out of 98 in the state.

“It was a surprise,” he said. “I go to work every day and do my job. I, myself, don’t feel like I do anything above and beyond because it’s just my every day routine. So to be recognized for what I do is a great honor.”

Day said he knew he wanted to become a prevention resource officer when the middle school position was created because he enjoys working with kids.

“When the high school position came open, I didn’t feel like I was ready for that,” he said. “I was told that this would come open. At the time, I had been in and out of elementary schools and talked to kids there. I had also done some investigations here at the middle school.

“When this position came open, it was a no-brainer,” he said. “I love this age group of kids.”

This school year, Day took something else his passionate about – running – and brought it into his work at the school.

“I have been an avid runner for a while,” he said. “I like to run distances and it has helped me in a lot of areas in my life with stress management.”

Dr. Ryan McCarthy and Colleen Farrell from Martinsburg designed a middle school running curriculum and offered it to any middle schools that were interested in forming a similar program.

“As soon as I saw that email, I made contact with Renee and told her I would be interested in doing that,” he said.

Day received a book that outlines the club model.

The running club meets after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays in all weather. If the weather is good, the runners go outside. When it is not, they use the halls.

Between 12 and 15 students regularly attend.

“I have a wide range of kids,” Day said. “I have some that are into sports and are using this as a way to stay in shape between seasons. I have other kids that were just looking for something to do. I’ve seen real turn around in a couple of kids who were introverted prior to and I have seen them come out of their shells.”

The group, made up of different ages and personalities, comes together as a team.

“We stretch to begin with,” he said. “Then, they will do some sprints.”

The club ends with a long run which for them averages between 2.5 to 4 miles.

“Once the weather gets better, we will be extending our range,” he said. “I incorporate other workouts like cross training and we sit down and talk about how things are going.

“Some were walking at the beginning and I’ve seen improvement in their running skills as well.”

So far the club has held one fundraiser for T-shirts and Day is looking for donations to be able to participate in the Strawberry 5K as a team.

“We have no budget,” he said. “This is a volunteer program on my end and I’m making it free for the kids.”

Day hopes to look for grants for next year. To help this year, contact Day at 304-472-1520.

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