LaGRANGE, Ga. (WRBL) – The Troup County Sheriff’s Office is approaching the end of its annual “Junior Deputy Program” and had its final class with Franklin Forest Elementary School on Monday. The program shares safety tips with all the third graders in the Troup County School System. 

“Probably you could end up being a criminal but after hearing what he said you probably might not,” said third grader, Collin Hill.

The Public Information Officer for the Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Stewart Smith has spearheaded the initiative since its inception in 2013. 

“It’s just an opportunity for us to partner with the school system and for them to see me and us as not just the police that come in, kick doors and take people to jail, we are regular people. That’s a benefit of the program, they get to interact with us,” said Sgt. Smith. 

Sgt. Smith goes into each elementary school four times each school year and teaches lessons based on being safe in school, being safe at home, bicycle/street safety and the dangers of drugs and alcohol. 

At the end of the program, Sgt. Smith has one student from each school shadow him for an entire workday at the sheriff’s office. “Sheriff for a Day” is used as an incentive to keep students engaged throughout the program. It gives the students an opportunity to see many different aspects for law enforcement like the sheriff’s office and the dispatch center.

“There’s probably 900-1000 third graders and so that’s a lot of kids I’m having contact with and I learned a long time ago that I may impact everyone of those kids but if there’s one I can make a difference in, it’s worth my time,” said Sgt. Smith. 

Lindsay Morris is the school counselor at Franklin Forest Elementary School. She said that the “Junior Deputy Program” has proved to be very insightful because it has shown students the importance of safety and being cautious around strangers and substances.

“I think the greatest thing that happens is that these third graders get exposed to the positivity of the police and our sheriff’s department. It just shows that our sheriff’s department is really engaged in the youth here in Troup County and I just appreciate it so much,” said Morris.

Morris said she has followed up with the lessons taught by Sgt. Smith and the intent is to continue following up to ensure the safety of the students.