Guest column: Our children are our future | VailDaily.com

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Guest column: Our children are our future

James van Beek

One of a parent's proudest yet most stressful moments is when they send their child off to school for the very first time. Wearing their favorite outfit and carrying a backpack nearly as large as they are, they are off to conquer the world … one grade at a time.

As parents, we are now expanding our influence to include others in the most important job we have as adults, raising our children. While we rebelled against the phrase, "it takes a village," yet we understand the influence of others, on our child's intellectual, social, and emotional development. We want them to be healthy, smart, popular, and safe.

We often struggle between granting freedom and maintaining control. We want them to be independent, yet understand the necessity of certain rules. This future scientist, tech developer, artist, chef, business executive, overall good person, must navigate the challenges of childhood with increasingly higher stakes, as national and global events become stronger influences in our local communities.

We hear about tragic events that happen in schools around the country and worry about them hitting home. To that end, the Eagle County Sheriff's Office has your back. Protecting our community includes protecting our most precious assets, our children. We are there, on the school grounds, making sure our young people have the freedom to be kids, while also remaining safe. No parent should have to worry when they drop their child off at school.

The Eagle County Sheriff's Office provides School Resource Officers on site, serving the security needs of our schools. Beyond safety, the officers' primary job is to be a bridge between students, families, and the community. We seek to provide a source of comfort and to support the values learned at home in assisting young people in making responsible choices.

Part of growing up is pushing boundaries, and we applaud those efforts, for it is in those moments independence is born and personalities are developed. Clarification is often needed to ensure those independent explorations do not cause harm to themselves or the community. How often do we tell our kids something, yet it doesn't sink in until they hear it from someone else? We want to make sure the "someone else" is a person who will guide them towards a positive outcome.

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We are also aware not all children have stable, supportive home environments, and sometimes need guidance beyond a teacher, for whom they must rely upon for a grade. We are there to provide the guidance they need but may be too embarrassed to ask family or friends. We help to clarify ideas that may sound good at the time but may have unforeseen or long-term consequences. What's the big deal in sexting? Marijuana is legal, why shouldn't I try it? That girl is so mean, I'm telling everyone on Facebook. Why can't I skip one day of school? I met this nice guy on line and he wants to meet up. Or, I'm afraid to come to school.

Sometimes it's a question of working to provide resources to students and their families. We may notice a young person who never eats at lunch, only to discover their family has no money for food. We connect them with a community resource for school lunches or food assistance at home. We may discover a young person is often tired at school, only to find out they are homeless; we want to make sure they have a safe place to stay. There may be a child who has sudden bursts of emotion and we discover they are going through a loss, perhaps a family member or an illness. We even occasionally discover issues of child abuse. We fill the gap teachers may not have an opportunity to address, and connect the child with an appropriate resource to help.

Growing up is challenging enough, then life happens, and it's easy to become overwhelmed. With little experience, children rely on the security of adults to guide them through these difficulties. Sometimes, families are embarrassed at their circumstances and need the discretion of someone who can help them. As a regular presence in the schools, the School Resource Officers become the unofficial big buddy students can turn to for advice. This aspect of the officers' role is beyond law enforcement; they are a safe spot in an otherwise hectic time in a young person's life.

One of the greatest honors at the Eagle County Sheriff's Office is to be entrusted with the guidance and safety of our community's children. As young people are exploring and developing new talents, we are there to protect, serve, and guide them, in their journey to becoming our community and nation's future leaders.