Franklin school adopts a hero

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

When Cape Girardeau Police officer Al Spencer arrived Tuesday afternoon at Franklin Elementary School, he suspected nothing unusual.

By the end of the day, the school's Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer was named a hero.

As Spencer was leaving the cafeteria after lunch, a teacher told him there was going to be a short assembly in the gym but didn't tell him what it was about.

Sitting with a group of kids in the back of the gym, Spencer listened as principal Rhonda Dunham described a statewide program started by Gov. Bob Holden in which each school adopts an everyday person who has made a difference at the school as its hero.

While Dunham spoke Spencer looked around and noticed a banner with the words "Officer Al is our Hero" at the other end of the gym.

"OK, what is going on?" he asked one of the children next to him. But before the child could answer, Dunham told the crowd that Spencer was Franklin's hero. The audience of over 300 students, teachers and staff erupted in applause.

"Truthfully," he told the crowd. "I'm not the hero. If these kids can get raised and keep their morals and values high, they're the real heroes."

But students, teachers and Spencer's supervisor at the police department couldn't disagree more.

Lt. Carl Kinnison, his supervisor, said, "I couldn't think of a better person for this. His level of enthusiasm and spirit go way beyond the average."

That enthusiasm is noticed by the children, too.

"Officer Al is the greatest policeman I ever saw," said second-grader Raynisha Jones. "He's really nice, and he loves children."

Alma Schrader Elementary and Jefferson Elementary Schools in Cape Girardeau also participated in the Adopt-A-Hero program.

Corona Harper, a 91-year-old substitute teacher at Jefferson, was chosen by that school, and Michael Morgan, a Cape Girardeau firefighter, was chosen by Alma Schrader.

hkronmueller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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