When Ja’Quary grows up, he wants to be a police officer like his “Big Sister,” Lieutenant Sally Lannom. “I want to put bad guys away,” he said. “Well, they’re not bad people, they’ve just done bad things. She taught me that.”
For the last five years, Lieutenant Lannom has worked to expand the youth outreach unit at the Dallas Police Department. Recently retired after 34 years of service, she saw becoming a mentor in the Bigs in Blue initiative as a natural fit. The national program connects youth with police in the community to help build stronger bonds between law enforcement and the families they serve and to make a positive difference in the lives of children.
Lieutenant Lannom visits her “Little,” Ja’Quary, at his school about once a week. An active second-grader, he loves to play football. Recently, they spent an hour adding to his “memory box” and picking their favorite March Madness teams. They are both rooting for Loyola University. “You have to root for the underdog,” Lieutenant Lannom said.
Ja’Quary, who lives with his mother and three other siblings, has had disciplinary issues at school, but he is working to address them. He is a little too active, Lieutenant Lannom said. To give him something to look forward to and encourage him to improve his behavior, she promised to bring a squad car to his school.
He kept his promise, so she kept hers. His face beamed as he looked back and forth between his “Big Sister” and the vehicle.
As Lieutenant Lannom walked him back to his class, she reminded him to “flip the switch.”
“That’s kind of our code now to help him refocus and take a different path rather than get upset, act out and end up in trouble,” she said.
The Unite Dallas Relief Fund was established by United Way in the aftermath of the July 7, 2016 shootings in downtown Dallas where six officers and one civilian were injured, and five officers tragically lost their lives. The fund was designed to support long-term healing strategies and supportive services, including mental health services to support victims, first responders and their families and civilians. It also supported efforts to bring our community together to hold crucial conversations around racial equity and bridging the gap between law enforcement and first responders, and the communities they are sworn to serve. One program supported through the fund was Bigs in Blue. A national program of Big Brothers Big Sisters, the support provided by United Way through the Relief Fund allowed for our partners at Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star to bring this work to the Dallas area. Bigs in Blue is a one-to-one mentoring program that connects caring adults who are police officers and first responders to Dallas County youth. Since its launch, the Bigs in Blue program has seen its matches across Dallas County exceed the national standards for meaningful mentoring relationships at the three month mark. One such successful match is between retired Dallas Police Officer Lieutenant Sally Lannom and her mentee Ja’Quary.
This article was published on: May 15, 2018