Books and badges

Deputy Alex Pruismann visits classrooms to introduce children to law enforcement in friendly setting

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Teresa Wood Alex Pruismann sits with Northeast Hamilton Pre-K students during the Books and Badges program. Pruismann visits classes at NEH and Stratford Elementary School once a month to teach safety practices and to help students view law enforcement officers as a friend.

BLAIRSBURG – In its fourth year, Books and Badges continues to introduce grade school children to law enforcement in a friendly setting while teaching basic safety tips.

Hamilton County Deputy Alex Pruismann initiated the program in 2016 in an effort to acquaint students at Northeast Hamilton and Stratford Elementary Schools with law enforcement officers. His monthly visits are only scheduled in school districts that do not have a police force present in the community.

At NEH, he visits in the Pre-K – 3rd grade classrooms. In past years at Stratford, his visits included the Early Learning Center – 3rd/4th grade but beginning with the 2019/2020 school year, he has added the 5th/6th grade class as the D.A.R.E. program is no longer at the school.

Over the years, topics have included bullying, stealing and how to be a good friend. Older children learn about internet safety, dealing with temptation and peer pressure, said Pruismann.

Discussions have also covered the topics of “Stranger Danger” and Pruismann has partnered with the schools by incorporating the “Character Counts” curriculum in his visits.

As in previous years, Pruismann works with the students to help them memorize important personal information such as their home address and phone number. They are asked to know their last name and to learn the first name of their parents other than “Mom” and “Dad”.

The overriding message at every visit is that law enforcement is a friend, not an enemy, said Pruismann.

Pruismann has a different approach depending on the age of the children. For most of the younger grades, it always starts with reading a book of their choosing.

“I try to relate that book to my given topic for the day,” explains Pruismann. “After the book is finished, a conversation takes place filled with questions and stories”.

As the older students are familiar with Pruismann, the approach is different.

“For the older grades, I have evolved and have taken more of a conversational approach with them,” explained Pruismann. “I allow them to speak their minds, express their ideas and tell me what they think on the day’s given topic. Many questions are asked, which is awesome as it sparks conversation. I want them to know I will truly listen to them and give them my full attention”.

Pruismann is grateful to the administration and staff at NEH and Stratford for permitting him into the classrooms.

“The teachers and administration at each school have been nothing short of awesome in allowing me into their educational routine,” said Pruismann. “It takes a lot of work to make out a schedule that works for all the teachers and I couldn’t be more grateful for all of them and their hard work and dedication”.

Throughout the years, Pruismann has measured the success of the Books and Badges program by what he sees when he walks into the classroom and when he’s out in public, in or out of uniform.

“I have no matrix of how to measure the success of this program,” he said. “I judge it by the fact that almost every single kid is excited to see me. No matter the grade, no matter the school. They want to see me, talk to me and have a conversation”.

Pruismann hopes that the students carry that message with them throughout their lives.

“I don’t want my program to be a fleeting moment in these kids’ lives,” said Pruismann. “I want it to make a greater impact on them so they know that whether I am in uniform or not, I am here for them”.

Pruismann hopes the message becomes universal for the students’ relationship with all law enforcement.

“I want them to know they can trust law enforcement and other public servants,” continued Pruismann, “Whether it is me they see in uniform or someone else – we are the good guys and gals”.

Whether on duty or grocery shopping in plain clothes, Pruismann wants students to know that he is always there for them and is always ready to listen.

“I have had many instances of this, whether it is them just saying ‘Hi’ or having something to tell me,” relates Pruismann. “That is success in my book.”