A new face has been seen around California's three school campuses since classes began Jan. 3. This figure sports a law enforcement uniform and even travels between the three educational buildings in a Moniteau County Sheriff's Office sports utility vehicle.
He's Scott Harkins, California's new Student Resource Officer (SRO).
Harkins, who was named SRO during a Moniteau County R-1 School board meeting Nov. 19, has been spending his time getting acquainted with teachers in all three buildings to make sure students and teachers know what his purpose will be.
"I've been talking with all of the teachers about their concerns with safety in their respective buildings," Harkins said. "I've also been able to meet with all the kindergartners to meet the kids and will be doing the same with all other classes."
The biggest adjustment he has faced, thus far, is to keep an open line of communication between himself and all parties within the school system.
"Right now, we're just all working to make sure things go better around here," Harkins said. "That, and I'm taking the time to get to know how things are run."
Working with different schedules and building policies are, as of now, another focus Harkins is working to learn.
While he will work primarily with the school system, Harkins will answer as an employee of the Moniteau County Sheriff's Office, in order to help students who live outside the city limits of California. A job that would be much more difficult if his requirements were confined to the city.
As far as civil service goes, the Springfield native said his desire to help others began when America suffered a national tragedy years ago.
"When 9/11 happened, I felt an overwhelming urge to serve," he said. "I first wanted to be an (EMT) and then go on to be a nurse.
"My family is in Moniteau County, so we moved up here and I began working at the 911 call center," Harkins said. "It was there that I fell in love with civil service."
In order to feed this love, he worked for the Mid-Mo Ambulance District as an emergency medical technician, spent seven years as a part-time dispatcher for the Moniteau County 911 Call Center, and then went on to police academy. Harkins, who said he has "always worn a lot of hats" when it comes to employment, even spent time as an assistant foreman for a residential construction company in Willard.
Even though his presence, and uniform, may appear intimidating to students, Harkins wants them to understand just why he is there.
"I know that some elementary students will see me and say 'why is there a cop at my school?'" he said. "I want to sit down and have conversation with all the students to help them understand that I am not here as the 'bad guy.'
"I'm more of a mentor or an advocate. If I have to be the cop and do investigations, I will do that, too."
Aside from safety, Harkins has yet another priority for California's students.
"I'm looking into lot of different programs for the kids," he said. "MoDOT has this good program about seatbelts that I'm looking into and I've also been looking into radKIDS."
"That's a program where the SRO is the instructor, and it's all just an outlook on empowerment, taking charge against bullying and confidence," Harkins said. "The main focus is to just keep it all going."
The presence of an SRO is certainly a new sight to see in the local schools. But Harkins feels right at home where he is.
"This is just a perfect fit for me," he said. "My mom was a teacher for 35 years, so I literally grew up in the school. Most of my family has been teachers, too. So teachers will always feel like family to me."
Harkins also has been able to see a few familiar faces while settling at the high school.
"I used to coach basketball for the middle school, so I've been able to recognize a lot of freshman, sophomores and juniors," Harkins said.
Two students may seem particularly familiar to Harkins, too. Those would be his children.
"I'm just ecstatic to be here," he said. "My two kids are in the district and this has been needed for years. I remember five or six years ago when things started to happen with getting the SRO into place, so this is really great."