Eudora school resource officer Ryan Healzer received recognition in May from Kansas Attorney General Stephen Six for implementing the DARE Plus program at West Elementary School.
Now comes news that Healzer has been named Kansas DARE officer of the year.
Not bad for his first year.
"I had no idea that someone had even nominated me, and since it was my first year, I would have never even dreamed of winning the award," Healzer said. "I was pretty ecstatic when I found out."
Healzer, who has been a member of the Eudora police department for six years, was told in June that we would receive the award. It was officially announced at the end of July.
"I'm proud of him, and the DARE program is kind of dear to my heart because this is about the 20th year and I was the first DARE officer we had," Eudora Police Chief Greg Dahlem said.
Healzer teaches DARE classes to students at Eudora Middle School, but it was his help in implementing the DARE Plus program that earned him the award.
The two-year-old program partnered students primarily from Eudora High School and a couple of students from Kansas University with students at West Elementary School. The program was the only one of its kind in Kansas and more than tripled in size from its first year to its second year.
State DARE Coordinator Jerry Tenbrink said the program's would not have been possible without Healzer.
"He means an awful lot because he was the first one to establish the DARE Plus program in the state of Kansas," Tenbrink said. "He was a pioneer, if you will. He showed us all how with some hard work and determination partnering with the school district, the students from KU and the police department they were able to create something that I think greatly benefited students."
Healzer also worked on the DARE Plus program with Eudora High School student Michelle Smith, who graduated last year.
Dahlem said Healzer's work in the schools is an example of how there is more to police work than writing tickets and arresting people.
"This is all a part of that protect and serve idea," Dahlem said "Those kids out there that he works with everyday - that's our future. One of the great things about being a resource officer is they can hopefully help get the kids going down the right path."
Through his interactions with the students, Healzer was able to humanize a group of people many of the students feared.
"A lot of these kids that we deal with are scared of officers, and that's the whole point - to make them comfortable to be around us," Healzer said. "I have an open door policy because I want kids to be able to come to me for anything."
And that door stays open all year long, even though Healzer works in the school district from August to May and then works in the police department during the summer.
"During the summer I miss teaching DARE and I miss the kids, so every day that I'm on shift I make a point of going to the pool and visiting with the kids so I still keep in contact with them," Healzer said.
Although he is pleased to win the award, Healzer said he could improve.
"Every year can get better," Healzer said. "I just want to make sure I'm teaching my DARE lessons and sharpening my DARE Plus program. As long as you're providing the help and the assistance to the kids is all that matters."
I'd like to thank the Eudora School District, the chief and the Eudora Police Department, the city of Eudora and the attorney general's officer for supporting me and making it all come together for me this year."