The moment Officer Gil “Butch” Redzinski walked in the classroom, a boy came up and gave him a hug. Other boys called out, “Hey, Officer Butch!”
The burly Walker Police officer stirred up a little excitement when he visited the Zinser BoyZ Club, an after-school group formed to help promote positive behavior among some of the male students at Zinser Elementary School.
Redzinski is a familiar figure at Zinser and other area schools, often showing up at events, talking to students about drugs and alcohol and letting them know he cares about them.
For the Zinser BoyZ, it was a chance to talk with a good male role model about an issue many of them know too well: bullying. When he asked how many of them had been bullied, all 17 hands shot up.
“There should never be a student like you to ever come to school and be in fear,” Redzinski told them. “The only people who can fix this are you guys sitting right here.”
Principal Ross Willick also said that being bullied doesn’t justify bullying someone else. “Just because you’ve been treated that way doesn’t mean you should treat somebody else that way,” Willick told them.
Pointing out it’s a crime to touch someone who doesn’t want to be touched, Redzinski said many of the criminals he catches started out as bullies.
“You can’t say things to people that are hurtful,” Redzinski said. “You can’t tease people. Y’all get it? If you don’t get it we can’t be your friend.”
Meeting Positive Male Role Models
Willick said he formed the group of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders a year ago to provide a place of male support and good behavior. The school doesn’t have a full-time male teacher and some of the students don’t have fathers at home. They are referred by their teachers for academic and behavior struggles.
Club members must sign a contract pledging to be respectful, kind and fair and to not fight, bully or swear. They do after-school activities and help out teachers with younger students. Willick tells them, “You have the potential to do great things. We need you.”
Redzinski was accompanied by three police interns: Aly Raterink of Kenowa Hills High School, Sydney Bogard of Rockford High School and Jake Terpstra of Grand Rapids Community College. Terpstra comes each week to mentor boys at Zinser, where he also went to school.
“I can see these guys all have the chance to succeed but they’re not taking the steps,” Terpstra said. “When I come here, I can help them get up that stairway.”
School News Network story about Rockford Student and Walker PD Intern Sydney Bogard