CMS starts unique mentoring group with police department


One kid's persistence is changing lives of others. In December, an eighth grade Cedaredge Middle School student approached Cedaredge Police Department Officer Jake Hernandez.

His mission? Ask Officer Hernandez if he would help lead a youth mentoring group. The student wanted to create a place for discussion and support with his fellow classmates. Officer Hernandez said yes.

Now, about 15 male students -- mostly sixth and eighth graders with a few seventh graders -- meet together almost weekly during school hours.

"What I'm hoping they'll get out of this [group] is learning the value of themselves and other people," said Officer Hernandez. "In upcoming sessions we'll really be working on helping them realize the effects of bad decision making and the effects of good decision making."

One way they're tangibly understanding the effects of good decisions is through volunteering.

After some discussion, the students realized they wanted to benefit the community. They wrote down ideas about people groups or organizations that could use some assistance. Now they're taking steps to be of service.

Right before Christmas the group went to Horizons Care Center and helped set up decorations in the facility.

The students are now working with The Abraham Connection, which provides emergency food and shelter to those in need in Delta County. Representatives from the shelter visited one meeting and briefed the students on what the organization does for the community.

After the meeting some students discussed going to serve dinner or volunteer at the shelter. They also decided to do some fundraising.

For example, they obtained permission to run the concession stands at the upcoming CMS basketball tournament Feb. 15 and 16. Funds raised will be donated to Abraham Connection.

"I want these kids to know how if feels to go out of their way to help another person without expecting anything in return," said Officer Hernandez. "It's a good feeling that I get in my job and why I stay as an officer."

He wants to plan group bonding activities like fishing on the Mesa and more fundraisers like car washes in the future, too. Overall this group looks to be a benefit to CMS students -- providing benefits like teaching leadership, instilling value in community service and creating a safe place for questions.

CMS school counselor Adriana McHugh, who helped advertise and get together students, said the meetings also create camaraderie and peer support.

At one session the students decided to help each other study since academics is also a priority. If Officer Hernandez is unable to be with the students McHugh sometimes leads.

"I see this group helping the students understand that they should have a sense of responsibility for their community, whether it's with their classroom and peers or community and people," she said.

Officer Hernandez hasn't facilitated a group mentoring session like the one at CMS before but he said he'd love to see other schools organizing something similar.

If a student has a desire to get a group together like this, he encouraged, "be persistent and reach out to someone you can trust. Law enforcement is a good source because we like to be involved with the community and the school. It helps our job to know these students but also helps them create a trust and bond with the police department."