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SRO of the Year has passion for her job at Parkwood Middle

Six law enforcement officers were nominated for the SRO of the Year award. Pictured, from left, are Sheriff's Deputy Joseph Whitley (Sun Valley High); Monroe Police Officer Paul Perrette (Monroe High School); Sheriff's Deputy David Ludlow (Piedmont High School); UCPS Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellis; Police Officer Vivian Caldwell, (Elementary Schools in Monroe); and Sheriff’s Deputy Stephanie Harms (Parkwood Middle). Sheriff's Deputy Crista Wallace (UCPS K-9 services) is not pictured.

You’ll seldom find School Resource Officer Stephanie Harms in her office at Parkwood Middle School; but there’s a very good reason.

“I want students to see me interacting with them, not as enforcing the law, but building that rapport between them and law enforcement,” Harms said. “I want to let them know that law enforcement is a good thing; that we’re here to protect them. We’re not there to get them in trouble.”

Harms can be found, however, walking the halls at the middle school, offering high fives to students, or in a classroom helping a student solve a math problem. Ask anyone at the school and they’ll tell you the same thing, SRO Harms is connected to the staff and the students.

It’s this dedication and passion for her job that helped Harms become the 2015-16 SRO of the Year. “I was honored just to be nominated, much less be chosen,” she said.

Harms is in her second year as an SRO with Union County Public Schools. “I love the position,” she said. “I’m still learning this job, but I want to do it to the best of my ability.

“I enjoy what I do. I’m thankful for the kids and I’m thankful for the staff here at Parkwood Middle. Without them, I would not be the SRO of the Year. They’re just as much a part of my backbone as my supervisors at the sheriff’s office.”

Harms said as an SRO, her greatest challenge is witnessing some of the difficulties her students have to endure, especially those caused when their home life is less than optimum.

“It’s tough,” she said. “When they come to school, this is their safe haven. They come in my office and they pour their hearts out to me; they talk to me. Then they have to go back to that same home environment; an environment that is very different than the way I was raised.”

Harms knows that part of her duty at the school is to enforce the law, but her desire to have a positive influence on the students is paramount.

“My intention is not to take kids to jail. My job here is to encourage them, help them anyway that I can,” she said. “But there comes a time when I may have to charge a student and it breaks my heart to have to do that, but that’s my job.

“If that’s what it takes for them to understand – if I charge them now and it makes such an impact on them that they won’t do it again, then I feel like that’s my purpose, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

She spends the majority of her time offering counsel to students and offering encouragement. “I just try to guide them on the right path,” she said.

An unexpected benefit of the job is forming lasting relationships with her students. Harms said this becomes evident when she sees them outside o the school setting.

“Those are the rewards that I get. When I see their faces light up, they remember my name, and they want to introduce me to their parents, brother or sister. They want a hug or a high five.”

Officer Harms will now compete for the North Carolina School Resource Officer of the Year title, to be chosen this summer.






Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe - UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Apr 28, 2015 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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