Alyssa Gottheiner, 15, of Manning, S.C., a sophomore at Laurence Manning Academy, organized a student essay contest and a “Community Day” to help improve relations between law enforcement agencies and the residents of her county. Alyssa’s parents are retired police officers, and often talk about the challenges of law enforcement, she said. “I wanted to make a change in my community,” Alyssa said. “The goal was to provide positive interactions for the benefit of law enforcement and the community.” She did that through a program she calls “Clarendon County Hometown Heroes.”
After winning support from her local sheriff, Alyssa began promoting an essay contest encouraging students to nominate a first responder who deserves recognition. She announced the contest by distributing 3,000 fliers to more than 10 schools and by spreading the word through a local newspaper, social media and her church. The essay winners get to have breakfast with a police officer and ride to school in a police car, while the officer featured in the winning essay is presented with a plaque by Alyssa at a county staff meeting. For her Community Day event, Alyssa attracted more than 50 sponsors and over 30 volunteers to help provide free food, games, bounce houses and police cars and fire trucks for kids to play in. “First responders work so hard dedicating their lives to our community. I want them to know how much we appreciate what they do and the sacrifices they make for us,” said Alyssa.