JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin Police and Fire Departments have partnered with McKinley Elementary School to create a new program for students.

Kari Lewis, Special Education Teacher, said, “A lot of them tell them about their jobs what they do like you know like what a corporal does, sergeant does, what a police officer does on a daily basis.”

It started out as a small pen pal project for one classroom, then it became a program to get every student involved in knowing the people who protect the community.

“Since we started out with the one, me and one other class, then the other teachers were like ‘hey I want to be apart of this’ so they all kinda joined in the parents have been very responsive as well that really enjoy and the kids are coming home and telling them about it.”

Each student is assigned a police officer or fire fighter, asking them simple questions. Officers reply and send special little gifts with the letters.

“Some of the students have received stickers couple of them have received patches and the kids love the stickers some of them wear stickers two or three days in a row.”

The goal is to remind students that officers are not scary, but just ordinary people.

Rick Hirshey, Joplin Officer, said, “These kids see me cause I’m in and out all the time but the interaction with officers it’s establishing a good relationship between the kids, officers, fire fighters, the dispatchers and they get to see the officers as people as just oppose the uniform coming in.”

The elementary students have enjoyed spending time and writing back with the officers.

Vincent Gage, 3rd grade, said, “They like that they get to talk to officers and or firefighters.”

Since the program is doing so well, the school hopes they can continue to work with the police officers and fire fighters in the future.