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Tampa police officer helping students through compassion

He’s ensuring safety, and he’s connecting with students on a personal level.

TAMPA, Fla. — Rodney Riviere said his job as a police officer took a turn that would prove beneficial for him and students — he serves as a student resource officer at Young Middle Magnet School in Tampa. Every morning, he greets kids and their families. 

"I thought I was going to come in, and I thought I was going to close gates and lock doors and check cameras, and that was all I had to do and make sure everybody's safe,” Riviere said.

Four years later, he’s ensuring safety, and he’s connecting on a personal level.

“I think he’s a great person. He’s very fun,” student Latasia Portis said. “He’s always there for the students here. He’s a great mentor. It makes me feel like I can do things when I have people behind me, cheering for me.” 

“They have to maybe walk their sister down the street where there's probably a drug dealer there. Just to get to school,” Riviere said. 

Many challenges follow the students.

"Our percentage of free and reduced lunch students is around 93 percent,” Principal Dr. Henrissa Berry said. 

Berry said 100 percent of her students have proven capable of excellence.   

"I know that when we incentivize positive behaviors, we see more of those positive behaviors,” Berry said.

As long as students are punctual, polite and productive, they earn "Buffalo Bucks." The currency buys snacks, pencils, and games. But many kids look past all of it.

"When you look up and you realize, when I notice, deodorants are one of the biggest things getting sold. They're like 'I need this. I don't want my mom to pay for this,'” Riviere said. 

Berry said this store has helped improve grades and behavior. "It really has shifted the culture,” Berry said. 

Riviere said Young Middle Magnet School is accepting help for its school store. He encourages anyone to bring donations to the school, which is located at 1807 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Tampa.

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