MERIDIAN, Idaho — Shannon Garza is a school resource officer (SRO) at Lake Hazel Middle School in Boise. She loves her job.
"I get to play, have fun, interact with kids," said SRO Shannon Garza. "I get to do all the normal cop stuff, but the best part is the connections I build with people."
Officer Garza knows just how much responsibility she has when it comes to keeping her students and staff safe.
"There's roughly 1300 people in my building, depending on the day, and I feel responsible for all those lives. Those are hopes and dreams and people and emotions, and you are in charge of making sure everyone is safe and protected," Garza told KTVB.
She says making connections with students and staff truly is the key.
"If you don't have those relationships, you are not going to be an effective SRO," said Garza. "Those relationships are everything. Without that, we don't have that connection, we don't have that trust."
Garza does have that trust with students like James Cowns. It's bittersweet though, because James is heading off to Mountain View High next year. That's the hard part for Garza, saying goodbye to her students as they move on to high school.
"James is a kid that would come into my office everyday, and give me a hug and a high five, tell me what's up," said Garza. "If I want to know any sports statistic he's my man, he's going to tell me. He loves football more than almost anything, he hasn't had the chance to play yet. He had told me for months that he was going to camp, that he was going to be a Maverick. He came up to me one day and said 'I'm not going to go to camp'. I was like wait what?"
Football camp is pricey for most families, and James said it just wasn't going to fit in the family budget this summer. Garza was heartbroken to hear that, and quietly went to work to make it happen. James had no idea.
"A good friend of mine is an SRO at Mountain View High School. It's Officer Rodriguez with the Meridian Police, I sent him an email and said 'hey, I have this kid and he's the best kid ever and he can't make camp, can you help me make some magic happen?' He wrote me back and he was like okay, of course, done!"
Garza called James to her office to reveal the big news. There were lots of tears all around. Garza had someone take video of the surprise to capture his reaction.
"When I went up there she was waiting outside her room, and she surprised me," said Cowns with a big smile. "I was in shock at first and then I started crying because she got me in!"
Officer Garza said it was so special to be a small part of James' happiness.
"I was excited for him because I know this is something that means a lot to him, so to be able to have a small part was like the coolest thing ever, the cherry on top of the ice cream," Garza told us.
James went to Mountain View High School football camp this summer, and it was everything he dreamed of.
"Camp was good, it was just really fun. This was my first time on the turf. I had only played catch. I love to run, and try to tackle people, to try intercepting them," said Cowns. "Our motto here from our coach is 'stop the run!'"
He's on the team this fall at Mountain View, and he can not wait to see his first season unfold. Right now, they are busy practicing.
"I'm enjoying it so much," said Cowns. "I already have friends on the team too!"
Garza told us it was the least she could do for such a special kid. She says she would do anything for her students. That's how much she cares.
"It just feels good, there's no other way to say it," said Garza. "I can't put fancy words on it. It just feels good to be a part of a tiny bit of change in someone's life. James is just the best kid."
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