Auburn City SRO Finds Unique Way to Connect with Students
To humanize himself to students, Officer Ron Askelson created a vision board showcasing both his professional and personal life.
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn Police Department Officer Ron Askelson knows that he occupies a unique position not only within his department but also in the Auburn City Schools system.
As the school resource officer (SRO) for J.F. Drake Middle School (DMS), Askelson has had only one school year to establish relationships with more than 600 sixth graders on his campus.
In keeping with The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) “triad” concept, Askelson takes his role seriously as law enforcement, educator, and informal counselor. In an attempt to more effectively connect with the students, Askelson coordinated with his school administration to implement an intentional effort to continue building relationships.
Principal Sarah Armstrong embraces the role Askelson plays, but she is also aware of the need to protect instructional time for her students and teachers. So when Askelson approached her with his idea to utilize an exploratory class known as “bridge time” to introduce himself to DMS students, it was a perfect match.
“Officer Askelson is the epitome of everything a school resource officer should strive to be. He is highly skilled and consistently helps evaluate the effectiveness of our safety protocols,” Armstrong said. “Most importantly, he connects with all students intentionally and in relevant ways by seeking to build a positive rapport with all stakeholders, whether talking with parents after a discipline issue, answering phones in the office, or putting air in a student’s bike tires before they go home. Officer Askelson is an invaluable member of the Drake Middle School family.”
Askelson took it upon himself to create a vision board detailing significant moments in his life from his 22.5 years in the military as a paratrooper serving in Afghanistan and Iraq to his decade of experience in law enforcement as well as his role as a member of the SWAT team.
His presentation also offers him the opportunity to share special moments related to his friends and family with students. This approach serves as a way for students to see “Officer Ron,” as the students call him, as someone much more than a uniformed officer in their hallways.
“I saw this as a way to humanize myself to the kids,” Askelson said. “They now know I am more than a badge; they know that I am a husband and a father, what my favorite sports teams are, and that Coke Zero is my favorite soft drink.”
Askelson also shares some of his hobbies, like kayaking and mountain biking, with the students. More recently, Askelson led an activity called “Off the Grid Living,” complete with MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) for students and a tour of a military-grade armored Max-Pro MRAP all-terrain vehicle from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
Creating opportunities to build SRO and student relationships can present logistical challenges, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through coordination with his DMS partners, his creativity, and adherence to the NASRO philosophy, Askelson has positively connected with students transitioning from fifth to sixth grade, who are finding themselves in new surroundings occupied by unfamiliar faces.
Daniel Chesser is the Public Relations Coordinator for Auburn City Schools and Chris Hardman is the Safety Coordinator for Auburn City Schools.