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WES Jr. Deputy program teaches kids integrity

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

Merriam-Webster defines “integrity” as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” Dep. Patrick Bloom, school resource officer at Wilsonville Elementary, defines it as “doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” It’s the latter definition that Bloom hopes to impress upon the students in his Jr. Deputy Program.

“At the beginning of the year, I speak with each class about what integrity is, and have them tell me ways that one could show integrity—greeting a new student and friending them, picking up trash in the hallway if they walk past some,” Bloom said. “Each student who accepts the ‘Integrity Challenge’ receives a certificate to hang on their wall, beside their beds, to remind them every morning to show integrity.”

Then, throughout each month, teachers observe their classes and choose the student who shows the most integrity at the end of the month. Each student selected receives “Cop Goodies” (custom sunglasses, badge pin and a bracelet), and Bloom shares doughnuts with all the Jr. Deputies after lunch.

In the second part of the program, WES lunchroom workers and custodians select the class that has shown the most integrity as a whole, naming them the “Integrity Class of the Month.” Criteria includes things such as hallway behavior and cleanliness in the bathroom and lunch areas.

“This encouraged the students to take personal responsibility, and work as a group to achieve a common goal,” Bloom said.

Bloom had a custom plaque made for the Integrity Class, which is presented to the teacher of each class chosen and displayed outside their classroom. In addition, each class gets to celebrate with a doughnut or popsicle party. Photos of each Jr. Deputy and Integrity Class are shared on the school’s website and social media.

The Jr. Deputy Program continues to be held each month at WES; however, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the school has changed it to a drive-thru style event.

On Wednesday, Dec. 16, each Jr. Deputy marched out onto the “red carpet” outside the school building as Principal Melody Byrne called their names. Then, each student posed with Bloom behind a mini version of Bloom’s Chevy Tahoe patrol vehicle, equipped with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office logo and even real, flashing lights on top.

“In an attempt to try and make up for the loss of doughnuts and lunch get-togethers, we had a miniature version of my patrol Tahoe built,” Bloom said. “The car is rolled out for each assembly, and the Jr. Deputies are able to sit in the car and get their picture made while wearing their ‘cop goodies,’ all while the theme song from ‘COPS’ is playing on the WIFI speaker.”

Bloom credited Blake Ray, construction technology teacher at the School of Technology in Columbiana, who had his class cut out the wooden Tahoe. They then mounted it onto a platform and added wheels. Then, WES art teacher Mari Newton and others gave it a paint job, and maintenance technician Heath Davis mounted the LED lights.

“Even though it’s not the one-on-one interaction I was able to have in the past, thanks to (their) hard work, the students still have something exciting to work for,” Bloom said.

WES Principal Melody Byrne expressed gratitude for Bloom’s efforts, which include greeting students in front of the school each morning and helping to organize and clean up after each Jr. Deputy program.

“We’re very blessed to have him to pour into our students and to really help them to not only recognize integrity and the things that it takes to be a Jr. Deputy, but also to be an example for our students,” Byrne said. “His big emphasis is on integrity and character, but alongside that having a humble heart and being a servant too, and he really does show that.”

Bloom frequently runs into students who have graduated from Wilsonville Elementary, and that is often when the efforts of the program seem to pay off.

“As long as we continue to build relationships with them, it will continue when they get older,” he said. “There are kids that have been gone for several years, and it’s the same relationship we had when they were here.”

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