Books and badges

Hamilton County students visited by local law enforcement

—Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Teresa Wood Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy Alex Pruismann read to the Stratford Elementary School students on Friday as part of his Books and Badges program. The students enjoyed hearing about the birth of Pruismann's son, Hal, and sharing stories about their siblings.

Last Friday, Deputy Alex Pruismann of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department apologized to the students at Stratford Elementary School when he visited their classrooms for the Books and Badges program.

He had a good excuse for missing their last visit in early February. Pruismann’s son, Hal, arrived two weeks early on Feb. 2, and the infant and his parents spent several weeks at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines until he was well enough to go home.

The students easily excused Pruismann’s absence and wanted to know about Hal after Pruismann read “Welcome New Baby” to the Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes of Linda White and Andi Berglund. The book and photo of the infant opened up a dialogue and the students were eager to share their own experiences with little brothers and sisters and how siblings should act towards one another.

“You treat them the way you want to be treated,” said one philosophical youngster.

“You should be nice to others and keep your hands to yourself,” said another.

This is the second year for Pruismann’s Books and Badges program. He developed the program for the 2016-2017 school year with the approval of former Hamilton County Sheriff Denny Hagenson. The program is designed to help students become acquainted with law enforcement and to encourage a positive relationship between law enforcement and youth.

The program has continued under Hamilton County Sheriff Doug Timmons and again finds Pruismann visiting Stratford Elementary School and Northeast Hamilton Elementary School on alternating Fridays.

Last year, the students learned rules of vehicle, bike and bus safety in addition to learning about stranger danger and cyber danger. Last year, the visit usually included a book about a safety topic, followed by a discussion. But this year, Pruismann was given different tasks by the two schools.

“This year is a little different,” explained Pruismann. “At NEH, the teachers decided to have me run through the ‘Character Counts’ program which is teaching the students at each grade level to be the best person they can be in all facets of life.”

The students discuss the six pillars of positive character development – Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship, explained Pruismann. Each visit usually finds him reading a book to the students followed by a discussion and leading an activity.

At Stratford, Pruismann reads and plays with the Early Learning Center students.

“I am going in and reading to the ELC and playing with the kids to make sure they feel safe with law enforcement as it is so important at that age,” explained Pruismann.

Pruismann also reads to the Preschool/Kindergarten students.

“The kids get to pick (a book) and we talk about various topics and answer a lot of questions,” said Pruismann.

Stratford first and second grade students requested a chance to spend the time talking about whatever is on their minds.

“They thoroughly enjoy just telling me about their day and that way, many important topics get brought up organically and we get a chance to talk about them,” said Pruismann, who conducted a fingerprinting demonstration during Friday’s visit in the First-Second grade class of Liz Smith and Gina Monroe.

In the Third/Fourth grade class, Pruismann assists with reading and talking about his life choices and his job as a member of law enforcement.

“The older classes are more inquisitive about life choices – which is awesome – and I love being able to give them my opinion, answer questions about my life choices and talk about why they were good or bad,” said Pruismann.

His presence in the classroom has made a positive impression on the students. During his visit, many pledged to become a member of law enforcement when they grow up.

“I like hearing that,” Pruismann told them.

Each year, Pruismann challenges the students to learn important personal safety information such as their own address, parents’ names, home phone numbers or contact information. With completion, comes a reward.

“I am sure at some point they will have me participate in some sort of physical challenge,” he said. Some of the past challenges have included a silly string war, a pie in the face, a foot race and a visit by one of his family’s alpacas.

This year, NEH students will also receive a certificate for completing the “Character Counts” program.

Stratford students haven’t decided what they would like, but some of the suggested ideas have included a field trip to the Sheriff’s Office in Webster City or another visit by an alpaca.

While the children learn from Pruismann, he admits he is also rewarded.

“I love listening to their stories and about their days!” Pruismann said.