New program boosts community spirit at local schools

by: VERN UYETAKE - Police Officer Nathan Burk had a very good time at lunch with Lake Oswego High School students Dec. 16. He even helped the kids with their homework. His visit was part of a program bringing a stronger police presence into local schools.

Police officers are not usually considered a teenager’s first choice as a conversation partner.

But that is changing in Lake Oswego thanks to a new program in which police officers visit city schools to eat good cafeteria food and talk a lot with students. Recently, Officers Brandon Clausen and Nathan Burk dropped by Lake Oswego High School to sit at a table in the middle of the teeming crowd for the 11 o’clock lunch.

Things went swimmingly. At one point a boy pushed his way in to get a place at the table, and later a boy came up to request a police badge sticker, to which the two officers generously added a police bookmark.

“They talked about their Christmas vacation plans,” Burk said.

“They asked us the answers for some of their homework questions,” Clausen said. “We talked about the work in our department and why we come to the schools.”

They come because Becky Cartier gets some very bright ideas. She has been rewarded by the highest teenage compliment of all: “They think it’s cool.” by: VERN UYETAKE - Becky Cartier, left, got the enthusiastic support of Marcie Christianson, Lake Oswego School District food services director, on her program that brings together police officers and local students.

Cartier started the program, funding it along with her husband, because she thought Lake Oswego schools would benefit from more of a police presence.

“I want school security to be better,” Cartier said. “Our police set wonderful examples. We have very high-caliber police officers in Lake Oswego, and I think it’s great they want to interact with students.”

Cartier had a great ally for her project in her friend Lee Havens. It was Havens who approached Mayor Kent Studebaker with the idea and got his enthusiastic support.

“Too often kids get bad ideas about police officers from movies and TV,” Havens said. “This program can help restore honor and respect for the police and let kids know they are there to help them and keep them safe.

“There are a lot of troubles in our schools today. Maybe this program can stop trouble before it starts.”

There are no bureaucratic strings attached to the kids-cops-lunch project. Cartier stresses that no organization sponsors the program. But she did receive wonderful cooperation from everybody as soon as she introduced the idea last September.

Several LOPD officers were happy to participate, and Marcie Christianson, the school district food services director, gave it a big thumbs-up.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Christianson said. “Our faculty thinks it’s a wonderful program. Having a policeman here in a positive light is always encouraging. It’s better than a kid asking, ‘Am I in trouble?’ It’s good for our kids to know if they need help they can go to a police officer.”

One nice thing about the program is that it requires no organization.

“What’s great about it is that it’s so spontaneous,” Christianson said. “It happens any time a police officer can show up. The only requirement is that an officer knows our lunch schedule.”

Cartier can bask in another success.

“The idea just sort of came to me,” she said. That is exactly what happened with her idea to start a Cards for Guards program a few years ago.

“Because of her simple but effective idea of having people buy gift cards and send them to the families of National Guardsmen, it will again be a merry Christmas for the men and women serving overseas. The Cards for Guards program gets better each year.

That is what she hopes will happen with the kids, cops and lunch program: More cops, more kids and a stronger sense of community well-being and safety.

Cartier has coined a nice phrase to sum it all up: “Police on Earth, Goodwill to Children.”

The public is invited to help fund the program, which costs $4 per meal. Donations can be sent to LOSD Food Services, P.O. Box 70, Lake Oswego, OR 97034.

Cliff Newell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 105.

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