Eleven-year-old Jayden Boykin made his way from one aisle to the next, as he went shopping for school clothes with his new buddy – Officer Troy Fulford of the Dade City Police Department.
The police officer and fifth-grader were on a mission, to make sure Jayden will look fashionable for his first day back at Rodney B. Cox Elementary School.
The pair was among those taking part in the second annual Summer Shop with a Cop event that brought 18 local kids and Dade City police officers together to select new school gear, on Aug. 2.
At the Dade City Walmart on U.S. 301, the police officers pushed shopping carts — following the lead of eager children ready to select clothing, to their liking, off the shelves.
Members of the Dade City Youth Council and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office Explorers also teamed up with the officers in helping the students shop.
Victoria Conn is part of the Youth Council and helped kids comb through the clothing.
“I think it really helps – being able to show the kids, ‘Yeah, you’re being partnered with a cop,’” the 17-year-old said. “It really breaks a lot of boundaries, and I think it’s good to be able to have that interaction.”
The off-duty officers volunteered to help out at the shopping extravaganza.
Sgt. Lorenzo Moreno said he was happy to be there. It gave him the chance to make friends with James Walker, 14, a Pasco High freshman.
“He’s the boss,” the sergeant said, with a smile. “Wherever he wants to go, whatever he wants to get – I’m here for him.”
The shopping experience initially was suggested by the Youth Council, after they found out about it being done in other Florida towns.
Since last year, the Youth Council and the Explorers have been working with the police department to help Dade City students.
Kids are recommended for assistance by teachers who may notice their unmet needs.
Each event sees a new round of kids being helped with shopping.
Lt. Brian Uppercue of the Dade City Police Department said the experience helps to build a good relationship between students and law enforcement.
Because the program gives youths a chance to meet officers in a different environment, it’s also believed that it helps them feel more at ease to approach officers in various situations.
Three Shop with a Cop events are held each year, supported by funds from the Youth Council and the police department.
In the spring, kids get to shop for school supplies. During the holidays, they can buy gifts for family members, and in the fall, they get to pick out new school clothes.
“We want them to feel positive about what they’re wearing and build that self-esteem on their first day of school,” Uppercue said.
Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez helps to oversee the Youth Council and to organize the Shop with a Cop events.
Besides helping the students, it also helps their parents, Hernandez said, noting that it reduces the financial pressures they face.
“Parents love that we do this,” the mayor said. “The word has spread and it’s been a very positive reception.”
Another opportunity to engage with kids will be the upcoming ‘Cop-sicle’ event, Hernandez mentioned. The Youth Council and the police department plan to hand out popsicles within the Dade City community.
Meanwhile, it won’t be long now until the students get to show off their new school fashions. The new school year starts in Pasco County on Aug. 12.
Published August 07, 2019