When George S. Henry School Resource Officer Patrick Thompson offered the students at this school the chance to put together lunches and distribute them to people on the street downtown, he knew there would be plenty of volunteers.
“It teaches them how to help others. The kids get to see another side of the city, where not everyone goes home to a hot meal and that some of us are on the street. So, as they get older, they learn to help others,” said Thompson, who is always trying to impart lessons about empathy, compassion and tolerance in his position at the school.
The students prepared the sandwiches earlier in the day and distributed them after school around the downtown east side and Moss Park.
He helps coach the school’s cricket team and an anti-bullying club and runs a morning fitness program as the School Resource Officer.
“You get to build relationships with the adults of tomorrow. It’s a positive relationship between police and youth. This is a safe environment for police, youth and the community. I’m always happy to hang out with these kids – they treat me like a big brother instead of an officer. They know if there’s a problem, I will deal with it.”
He’s happy to get up and got to work every day, and knows if he misses a day at school because of training, he’s going to be asked by students on Snapchat where he is instead of with them.
“I love it,” says Thompson, a 15-year veteran of the Service who worked as a Primary Response Officer, answering radio calls, before he reluctantly took the SRO job in 2011, unsure if it was a good fit. “This my calling. You’re going to work every day with a bunch of kids who are happy to have you there. It humbles me.”
Every time he arrives at his office at the school, there is someone waiting for him at his office to talk about their homework, home life or about nothing at all.
Business Teacher Lascelles Grant said Thompson’s office is overflowing at lunchtime.
“He’s an exceptional human being and the kids relate to him,” he said. “He’s a tremendous asset for the school.”
“I think his philosophy is one of prevention and showing students you don’t have to go down that path. He tells kids to stay fit and have a healthy lifestyle and plan for a career. And also tolerance and understanding that there are people with different sexual orientations and different religious backgrounds,” said Lascelles, who joined the sandwich run downtown.
Omid Abdul-Samad graduated from George S. Henry last year but was among three alumni students to help distribute sandwiches once again.
Abdul-Samad said he was afraid of police when he entered grade 9, after growing up only seeing police make arrests. Now he’d like to be a police officer.
“He may appear as a big guy, he may look a little intimidating, but I can tell you he is the sweetest and most caring and generous person I’ve ever met,” said Abdul-Samad, who has only known high school as having a police officer in it. “His office is always open, if you have problems or just hang out. There are even a bunch of alumni that come to see him.”
It’s been a common experience for Thompson, who can point to over a dozen of his students pursing policing as a career. But he’s happy that he can impart a few life lessons and have students consider police as allies in the future.
For Mtega Ejinyere, 17, it is his first year in a school with a police officer.
“Having him around is pretty amazing,” he said. “You don’t hear about crime. No more bullying, no more fighting, he’s always on top of every issue. So he’s very aware of what’s going on around him. He’s also super friendly and tends to bring everyone close to him so they all feel safe around him. He’s a very cool person to be with.”