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A positive presence in the halls


At Byron Center High School, Ben Hawkins, informally called “hall monitor,” is filling the behavior interventionist role, which takes a bit of a different shape than at the elementary school.

The former police officer connects with students in a positive way. But he doesn’t hesitate to tell them to remove their hats and ear buds and put their phones away, or to check to make sure no one is vaping in the bathroom. He also makes sure exterior doors are secured and helps with maintenance when students are in class.

Main story: ‘If a child really needs someone, I am that person’

Former Grand Rapids Police Officer Ben Hawkins is now offering behavioral support at Byron Center High School

Since being hired in early April, he’s gotten to know students. “Just by saying ‘hi’ to a kid — when in high school they think they are forgotten in a sea of 1,200 students — you never know how much that might affect them throughout the day,” he said. “You never know what these students are dealing with at home or away from here or even in the hallways.”

Hawkins worked for 11 years for the Grand Rapids Police Department, serving as a community police officer. Bringing with him that perspective, he has spoken to Byron Center classes about issues like domestic violence.

But the students have made his job easy — he’s dealt with very few behavior incidents, he said.

“These kids are so respectful.. It’s been positive and welcoming, It’s like one big family and they welcomed me with open arms.”

Junior Izzy Moreno stopped Hawkins in the hall to tell him about her SAT score. “He’s the best. He’s just super personable to everyone,” she said. “He’s easy to talk to. He’s super understanding. He has our best interest in mind.”

Freshman Paige Deppe agreed. “Mr. Hawkins is special because he cares about students, but he’s also going to bust you if you’re doing something wrong.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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