For four years, Officer Carlos Olivares has been the resource officer for Lakeland schools. In the beginning, the position was at the high school and he was tasked with truancy issues and safety at the school.
Over the years, that role has expanded, as Olivares now visits all five Lakeland district buildings and the benefit of having him on site has also evolved.
“Carlos was predominantly at the high school the first two years, but last year he started rotating through all five buildings,” Lakeland Superintendent Risa Herber said. “He’s a great visible presence in the schools.”
Getting Olivares into the elementary and middle schools is one way that the resource officer position has become more proactive. “The kids get to know him and can talk to him when there is something unsettled in their lives,” Herber added.
“I work with what the kids need,” Olivares said. And as for having an officer at the school all the time? “They are very relaxed around me now.”
It is having someone around other than a teacher or principal for the students to talk to, and who will listen, that has been one of the changes with the position over the last four years. “Some kids will share their personal life,” Olivares said, including students who may have problems communicating with their teachers, but will talk to him. “Sometimes, they need someone to hear them,” he added.
After four years, Olivares is well known around the high school, but is looking ahead to the younger students who will someday be at the high school. Olivares visits the elementary schools throughout the week, just to interact with the students and give safety presentations. “I say hi. Give them high fives at the elementaries,” Olivares said. “I’m exhausted after I visit the elementaries. They have a real high energy level. I love it.”
The main idea is to make his presence known at the lower schools. “By the time they reach middle school, they know who I am. By high school, they are comfortable with me,” Olivares said. “At the high school, they notice when I’m gone, too.”
Olivares is looking ahead to starting summer programs with the school as he is with the district year-round now.
“Carlos is a great asset and we continue to fund that position,” Herber said. “We feel it’s important to have a resource officer and to partner with the sheriff’s department.”
And as the position continues to evolve and expand, students can continue to benefit from having Olivares in school, and for more than just safety.