(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A class of 8th grade Robidoux Middle School students helped educate some representatives with the St. Joseph Police Department in the ways of social media.
Sgt. Roy Hoskins, Crime Prevention Sergeant with SJPD, said what better way to learn about new apps like Instagram, Tik Tok and more than by the people who use it most.
"At my age, I know a little bit about it. I use it somewhat out of, you know, that I'm forced to but this really opened my eyes because they know how to use it," Hoskins said. "This age group, they use it every day - all day, every day - and they know all of the intricacies of it."
For six weeks, the students were asked to evaluate what SJPD currently does with its social media, research what other law enforcement agencies to for it and then develop ideas for a more community-engaging social platform plan to present to the department.
One group of students came up with a hashtag campaign idea using #notyouraveragejoetowncop, which is meant to combine humor and comedy along with the department's more serious online posts.
"Ours was the hashtag campaign and it was about basically just going on Instagram and Tik Tok and just putting hashtags out there," Kalena Henderson, 8th grade Robidoux student, said.
The program has been going on for two years now, and is a partnership between Robidoux Middle School, the St. Joseph Police Department and United Way. It's meant to connect students with different businesses while also encouraging them to work and problem solve issues facing their own community.
Last year, the students were asked to develop ideas for the police department regarding how to prevent thefts from vehicles. One 8th grader, Isabella Clenens, said working with SJPD helps bridge the gap between their generation and local officers.
"I feel like it's a greater deal to get used to the cops whenever you're younger so that you're not scared of them or get like a bad impression of them," Clenens said.
The students have also previously conducted research to help the St. Joseph Animal Control and Rescue on animal enrichment, and hope to do something to help the homeless in the future.
"They may be in middle school but their hearts are big, and their empathy for people is big," Kelsey Davis, 8th-grade teacher at Robidoux, said. "They want to do something that they can get out there and change their community but most of the time they feel too young, that they don't know how. So, this is a really great way to facilitate that."
And, Sgt. Hoskins said the department is grateful to work with the students and will be using some of their social media ideas moving forward.
"I made some good notes and we've got a few things," Hoskins said. "There's some really good info there. Some memes and some video clips, and maybe video clips that combine something funny with a serious, positive message at the end to get people's attention."