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Sgt. VanDoorne says goodbye: Stark County's first SRO reflects on impact, memories

Sgt. Ron VanDoorne visits with students at Belfield Public School on his last day. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

Today, school resource officer Sgt. Ron VanDoorne will walk the halls of Richardton-Taylor Public Schools for the last time. Yesterday was his last day at Belfield Public School. He's saying goodbye to his position as a school resource officer, which he's held at one school or another since 2007.

He was there where the program began in Dickinson and was the town's first SRO.

Before the SRO program, they tried the Adopt-a-Cop program.

"They were trying to spend time in the school in the morning when the kids were coming in, during the recesses when they're outside, during the lunch hour," VanDoorne said. "If you have time, maybe sit down and have lunch with the kids and the staff."

It was well received, but it wasn't enough, he said. That's when they decided to try the SRO program full-time.

In the beginning of the SRO program, increasing their time with students was a goal.

"We'd go into math classes and we'd talk about how we use math in crash and accident investigations," VanDoorne said. "I did a report writing class for an English class and told them how important English really was. I even went as far as to bring in what I think was one of my very first reports, and I read it aloud to the class. I get a pretty good chuckle from the kids cause it wasn't very good."

He told the students about going back to school and taking English and public speaking classes, that it made it easier to properly do his job.

Over the years he's been there, he said he tried to think outside the box and do some fun activities with the students. They raised money for one of the families by selling doughnuts for a chance to plunge him into the water of a dunk tank. He took a pie to the face for a fundraiser. He passed out ice cream to kids who drove to school wearing their seatbelt. He brought in a seatbelt convincer and a rollover simulator.

It's hard for him to truly measure the impact he's had.

"You don't know maybe that one morning when you said 'good morning' to a student that was feeling less than great about themselves that day, what might have happened if you hadn't done that."

Some things you won't ever know about; some things you'll only learn about years down the road, he said.

One impact he learned about a couple of years ago. He was at a benefit dinner with his wife when one of the servers approached him. When she was in school, he was able to get her into a treatment program and pull her out of a bad environment into a foster care setting.

"I would have never known it was her," he said. "She had some issues with substance and alcohol, and I didn't even recognize her, she looked so good. She was in foster care. She just came up and said 'I just want to thank you.'"

He said he'll miss the relationships he's made over the years the most. The most rewarding part of the job for him was working with the kids. He knows all of them by name. He'll miss the faculty of the two schools, too.

"They really are like a big family, the teachers and the staff," he said. "I'm going to miss the fact that everyday, I'm around people that try to make things happen for the good of all the kids."