Middle school is a time of life where coming into your own is the goal and learning who you are in a sea of other beings can be a daunting task.
According to School Resource Officer Elizabeth Heffler, being in middle school is not easy and kids are often unsure about who they are and who they are becoming. As a result, good manners and random acts of kindness are often hard for them to perform.
"I spend every lunch with these kids at both middle schools trying to get to know them," Heffler said. "I know I don't see or hear everything, but I do try to engage with the kids and teach them to respect one another."
In a world where each kid feels conformity is necessary, it is not always easy for them to do what's right. Heffler does her best to make doing the right thing fun.
"I walk around with a pocketful of pencils, rubber balls and other trinkets that I give out when I see a random act of kindness," Heffler said. "It cannot be purposeful for the sake of a toy, but a true kind act."
Something as simple as holding a door, or greeting a non-friend on crutches to help carry books to class counts.
"It's about basic manners," Heffler said. "These kids are working so hard to figure out who they are, and it's really cool to watch them grow into who they are meant to become."
Heffler said she appreciates the support of both the schools and the parents in the area.
"The best way parents can help," she said, "is to work with the school to remedy the problem. Forget the blame game and try to focus on the positive. Saying it's not my kid is not helpful."
Heffler is in the schools all day every day with an eye on teaching kids to grow up and function better in the workplace.
"We are teaching them to exist in the workforce," Heffler said. "Someday they are going to have to know who their friends are and who they can sit with at lunch and how to get along with others."
Heffler has been a part of the force for 15 years, and she started in the schools in September 2011.
"It's been 100 days and so far so good," she said.