By Bethany BROWN
Glendale Police Dept. hosted its first “Big Saturday” – a day filled with mural-painting and conversation – at Horace Mann Elementary School on Saturday, April 2. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., officers worked alongside 50 selected fourth and fifth grade student leaders to paint a total of eight murals throughout the campus.
Each mural is visually unique in appearance but collectively promote words of encouragement, leadership and inspiration. Amy Tate, GPD police service officer (PSO), said the goal of the event was to foster connection between students and officers, inspire creativity and remind the students that they’re never alone.
The idea stemmed from GPD’s existing community outreach program called Big Sunday when different events are coordinated to give police the opportunity to engage with residents in the community. Previous events have included mowing lawns of elderly residents who may be unable to do so, graffiti removal and food drives, among others.
“It’s all about giving back to the community,” Tate said. “Our goal is to beautify the city where we can and ultimately promote community engagement. A lot of times people don’t see our officers as people … they’re just police officers. So when there’s an officer lying down on the ground painting or playing basketball with the kids, it shows that they’re a person just like everybody else.
“My personal goal is to just humanize the officers with the public and continue to do great things within the city.”
A scheduled lunchtime and recess provided additional opportunity for the students to sit with and interact with the officers. Some played basketball, volleyball, cornhole and handball while others danced to music and explored the playground. Tate said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, over the last two years police haven’t been able to do much within the outreach program, so she was eager to get back to it.
Horace Mann Principal Rosa Alonso first approached Tate with the idea of the murals because she wanted to create something visual on school grounds that aligns with the school’s “Leader in Me” program that empowers students with the leadership and life skills they need to thrive. The program teaches foundational principles and skills that are widely accepted as essential to personal leadership such as responsibility, time management, communication, collaboration, relationship building and wellness, to serve all students in all communities.
“Honestly, we were all a little nervous because none of us had done murals before, and there’s only one officer in my bureau who is an artist,” Tate said. “But we leaned upon each other and met with the school to get an idea of what they were thinking.”
Students were recruited from Glendale Community College Scholars Program to help in the process. On Friday, April 1, about 20 volunteer scholars came to the school and put all the mural outlines up on the walls in preparation for the event the next day. Many returned on Saturday to help paint, setup, clean up and engage with the kids.
Tate said the event was overall a huge success, and that it warmed the GPD team’s heart to see the students engaged and happy. Several of the students even claimed it was the “best day of [their] life.”
Alonso echoed this sentiment and said she couldn’t have asked for anything better.
“I can’t thank enough the GPD and all who participated in this wonderful event; they made it so easy and really brought our vision to life,” Alonso said. “The kids had a blast and were so excited to be able to interact with the officers and the scholars. It was truly the perfect day.”