The St. Joseph United Way partnered with the St. Joseph Police Department and Missouri Western Athletics to teach sixth-grade boys and girls important life skills at Edison Elementary School.

This is the second year of the program, as it continues positive relationship building between young students and caring role models throughout the community.

Jodi Bloemker, United Way director of community investment, said this is the first year the program is being offered to sixth-grade boys and girls.

“The sessions start out with just some get-to-know-you activities for the adults and kids,” Bloemker said.

There are multiple sessions throughout each semester incorporating the entire sixth-grade class at Edison.

Bloemker believes the mentoring also encourages the students to think more about their futures when they hear about career paths from the adults.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to learn about what’s out there for them after they graduate high school,” Bloemker said.

The boys’ session consisted of learning how to tie a necktie and working on firm handshakes with eye contact.

Sergeant Keith Dudley said he’s created great relationships with his sixth-graders and they’ve loved the skills they’re learning.

“Several of the boys wore their ties throughout the day after our session and got to take them home,” Dudley said.

Bloemker and the officers agree that these sessions help the students become more comfortable around law enforcement and teach students that officers are a positive source to turn to if they need help.

“It’s good to have positive interactions with them because a lot of times when people call us it’s not the best day of their life,” Dudley said. “A lot of kids have brought up that they’re afraid of police and this helps with that.”

The session continues after the holiday break, but Dudley said that he and the students will definitely be missing each other over the month break.

“I think we get as much out of it as the kids do,” Dudley said.

Bloemker plans to keep the program going in the following years with the success they’ve had so far, possibly expanding it further.

Bailey Ketcham can be reached