Fifty-two lucky fourth-graders got a chance Dec. 19 to finish some holiday shopping—for themselves and their peers—courtesy of Morgan Hill Police officers.
It was the fourth annual Shop With A Cop charity and outreach event, organized by the Morgan Hill Police Officers Association. Before being treated to a $100 shopping spree at Target, the students selected for this year’s program enjoyed a tour of the police station on Vineyard Boulevard, met the city’s K9 police dog, Bosco, and were awed by demonstrations of patrol cars, handcuffs and other tools of the law enforcement trade.
After eating dinner with a dozen-plus MHPD officers, the group rolled up to Target on Cochrane Road in a caravan of Morgan Hill Unified School District buses and police cruisers. Running into the store in order to keep up with the kids, each officer was teamed up with a small group of students to help ensure they stayed within their budget and purchased everything on their lists.
Kia Jones, 9, a fourth-grader at Jackson Academy of Math & Science, said while deciding what to purchase at Target that meeting the city’s K9 officer was the highlight of the evening thus far. As for what she was looking to spend her $100 gift card on: “I’m buying more stuff for the toy drive than I am for myself,” she said.
The shopping spree came with some conditions set out by the MHPOA organizers. Students had to use their gift card to purchase something warm, something for school and a gift to donate to a program that helps disadvantaged kids during the holidays, Officer Ken Rak explained. After picking up those items, the students could spend the balance of their gift cards on whatever they wanted for themselves. Most of them chose toys.
The Shop With a Cop program aims to select students who are considered leaders among their fourth-grade peers. Students at MHUSD elementary schools were asked to vote for their classmates to participate in the Dec. 19 shopping spree based on five criteria: the student is an example for others; is a leader; is self-motivated; is self-disciplined; and is socially responsible, according to the MHPOA.
Funding for Shop With a Cop comes from the MHPOA’s annual golf tournament fundraiser, which took place in October this year.
The purpose of the program is not only to bring some extra holiday cheer to local students. It is an “opportunity for the future leaders of our community to be awarded and recognized for their hard work and being role models,” reads an MHPOA statement. It’s also a chance for children to have a positive interaction with police.
MHPD Capt. Emil Kokesh, the newest member of the local police force, was one of the students’ shopping guides during the Target shopping spree. Having just joined MHPD at the beginning of December, Kokesh was quick to give the other officers credit for organizing the event.
“It’s a great event,” Kokesh said. “I know the officers put a lot of work into it. It’s a great way to give back to the community.”