MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA– A little over a year into her new role as School Resource Officer, Andrea Locke has found unique ways to connect with students and staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most recently, this January Officer Locke began teaching an independent study for a junior interested in law enforcement at Manchester Essex Regional High School. The pair will meet a few times a week, allowing Officer Locke to provide insight into a career in law enforcement, such as what it means to be a witness and police training.
“It’s really fun and I’m loving this opportunity,” Officer Locke said. “If a young person is passionate about policework, this is a chance for them to gain a small glimpse into what this career path could be like.”
“We’re very thankful to have had the opportunity to bring a School Resource Officer into our schools through our collaboration with the district, and it’s been a pleasure to see Officer Locke develop strong, positive connections with the young people in our community even amid the ongoing pandemic,” Chief Todd Fitzgerald said. “The relationships we have with our community members are invaluable, and making sure students know we’re here to help is a fundamental building block that will benefit our town for years to come.”
Officer Locke became the first School Resource Officer (SRO) for schools in Manchester and Essex in November 2019. Prior to that time she served as a patrol officer for the Manchester-by-the-Sea Police Department for approximately 13 years. Before the start of the pandemic, she had just begun to establish connections with students and staff at Manchester Essex Regional High School, Manchester Essex Regional Middle School, Manchester Memorial Elementary School and Essex Elementary School.
Officer Locke found ways to volunteer and remain a friendly face in the community even as social interactions in-person came to a halt. She began reading children’s books through a Facebook video series in the spring, and helped to deliver produce boxes donated by members of the community to those in need.
During the summer months, she organized the police department’s “Summer Series” events, giving students an opportunity to say hi to members of the department, while wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. These events also helped bring business to local restaurants during the economic hardship caused by the pandemic. Middle school students in particular seemed to enjoy the Summer Series events, which were held at local eatieries including Bravo Pizza, The Laughing Gull, Captain Dusty’s, Allies Beach Street Café and The Mooring. Officer Locke also regularly walked Singing Beach over the summer to greet children and teens while the beach remained open to residents only this summer.
This school year, Officer Locke has returned to her routines of greeting students and staff, walking the halls, checking in and acting as a source of support in Manchester-by-the-Sea and Essex schools. Over the holidays, she also volunteered to help deliver holiday gift donations organized by the school district to families in need.
“I just want to make a difference, and I want students to see police officers as relatable people,” Officer Locke said. “I want them to know that they can come to me or another officer if they ever need help, and I’m hoping through the connections I’m able to make they’ll know we’re always here to help them if they need us.”