Michael Roros said it used to be difficult to express when he had a problem or was struggling with a subject at school.
The fifth-grader said all of that changed this fall when he met Baltimore County police Officer Ryan Mull. Mull is among 11 officers at the Essex police precinct participating in a mentoring program at the school.
A total of 12 fifth-graders participate in the program, which includes having lunch with the officers and working on homework together. Lunches for the program are donated by in Middle River.
“Officer Mull is so easy to talk to,” Roros said. “I feel like I can speak with him about anything.”
Fostering positive relationships is the program's main goal, fifth-grade teacher Wendy Adey said. The Dundalk native and Bel Air resident launched the program last year while teaching at Victory Villa Elementary and brought it with her to Chase Elementary this school year.
Adey said each student has a one-on-one relationship with an officer, although one officer mentors two students. She added the students aren’t necessarily “at-risk” kids, but may need extra support in school.
“I’ve seen a positive change in each of the students,” Adey said. “The officers have really helped develop each of the children, both as students and as people.”
Adey said the program extends far beyond the lunches between officers and students. The officers have met the students' parents, they check in on them when they are sick and encourage them in every aspect of their lives.
Sgt. Deanna Chemelli said her involvement in the program has been a rewarding experience. She has mentored 11-year-old Angel Howard, who said her time with Chemelli has made school much more enjoyable.
“Sgt. Chemelli has become a great friend,” Howard said. “She has made fifth-grade amazing.”
Chemelli even bought Howard hot chocolate while on a field trip to the , which took place on Howard’s birthday. Students have also made goodie bags for the officers on Halloween, and on Veterans Day, they honored officers who also served in the military.
“You really get to know people in the community on a more personal level,” Chemelli said. “It’s great to interact with people in the community in a positive manner, rather than just when we are called for assistance.”
Serving as a mentor proved even more beneficial recently while on patrol, Mull said. He came across a school bus that broke down and when he pulled over to offer assistance, students automatically recognized him.
“I stop to help and I hear ‘Hey, it’s Officer Mull,’” he said. “It’s great to see the community make you feel welcomed. We’re all just trying to make a difference.”
The program, which is only available at Chase and Chadwick Elementary School in Baltimore County, has been a success, Adey said. She hopes to eventually expand it to third and fourth grades.
“The whole school community has embraced this mentorship program,” she said.