By Samantha Joseph
STUART -- Students at J.D. Parker Elementary School got to see a softer side of the area's law enforcement and firefighting personnel.
Stuart police officers and firefighters read to them this month during literacy week, Jan. 14-18, as part of a campaign by the Department of Education.
Across the state, the national program placed hundreds of representatives from state and local law enforcement agencies, the health department and other groups in local classrooms. Visitors read to the children as part of an effort that encourages reading, while introducing students to the men and women who serve the community.
Among those visiting area students in their classroom were Sgt. Marty Jacobson, Dave Dyal, interim fire rescue chief, Lisa Scott, police administrative secretary, Officer Brian Bossio, several detectives and other police and fire staffers.
"The feedback I get from the officers is that they really enjoy it," said special operations Sgt. Joe Tumminelli, the program's community liaison. "A lot of them are repeat readers."
The program started about three years ago when school officials invited law enforcement personnel to read to students.
Since then, the two departments have responded enthusiastically, taking the opportunity to meet some of the area's youngest residents.
"It's a good experience for the kids, because it shows them policemen are there to help them," Sgt. Tumminelli.
"It shows us in a positive light, instead of a negative one where somebody's getting a ticket or getting arrested.
"It's a way for the kids to interact with policemen and firemen on a different level," he said. "The students see us in an entirely different light. It's a great way to build a trust that will hopefully last a lifetime."