CRANBERRY TWP — A few police cars parked outside Rowan Elementary School on Wednesday morning worried teachers and faculty as they entered the building. The officers, however, weren't there on official business.
A third-grade class made pancakes, smoothies and coffee for Cranberry Township police officers to thank them for their service to the school and community.
Cranberry Township Police Sgt. William Ahlgren was one of the first “adopted” officers for teacher Rebecca Hester's class about five years ago.
Hester said there is a student who is in eighth grade now who still runs to hug Ahlgren every time she sees him, and Ahlgren stressed the importance of officers being involved in the community.
“Even though we're here serving in our role, it goes beyond that,” he said.
Ahlgren and Hester said establishing relationships with children while they're young can make them not only feel safe in their community, but also trust officers enough to report problems.
“(They) feel confident because of their relationships (with officers),” Hester said.
Ahlgren added that it's also an enjoyable experience to interact with the students.
“Being able to sit in with kids, seeing a lot of effort … doing this with us makes it extra special,” he said.
An entertainment committee put together songs and poems for the participants. Erin Sprolla was one of the students in charge of the committee.
“Everything is pretty fun,” Erin said. “Serving police officers isn't something you get to do every day.”
Erin said her favorite part of the day was playing music on the recorder for the officers' entertainment.
On the menu for the officers were pancakes, breakfast sausage, smoothies with fresh fruit and coffee. The students didn't have any of the pancakes, which aren't on the Seneca Valley-approved snack list, Hester said.
“They aren't going to complain, either, because they know this was about the officers, not about them,” she said.
They were, however, allowed to make themselves smoothies once all of the officers had been served.
The PTA and other parents donated most of the food used for the morning's breakfast and for Thursday's when Hester's fourth grade class served a different set of officers.
“I could not have done this by myself,” Hester said.
While many parent volunteers helped with donations or aiding the students, the third-grade class did all the planning.
The students took care of the decorations, treat bags, food preparation and entertainment before the breakfast. Erin and others let the planning cut into their recess time, opting to make menus for the officers, rather than play with their classmates.
“It takes a lot of effort,” Erin said. “It's something to appreciate the officers for how they help us at the school and protecting us, and just giving them a break and something for them to enjoy.”
Hester said all grades in the school contributed to cards the students made for the officers with the Wordle app. Students were polled on which words most remind them of the police. The top word on the decoration was “courage,” followed by smaller ones for “brave” and “K9.”