For graduating seniors in the class of 2020, the second half of the school year has been different than any class before them.
Senior events were cancelled and graduation ceremonies have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Josh Rogers, school resource officer for Dawson County High School, came up with a plan to help graduating seniors know they are loved and appreciated.
Rogers, known as “Officer Jolly” in the community thanks to his positive attitude and acts of kindness, said that the idea came to him when he was ordering new signs a real estate job he works on the side.
“I was looking at real estate signs online, and I saw congratulations signs on the same website,” Rogers said. “I’d been wanting to do something for the seniors to tell them good job and they’re not forgotten, so I contacted the company about ordering signs.”
Rogers bought 270 signs out of his own pocket and contacted the school to get addresses for the graduating seniors. He then spent about a week driving around to all of the graduates’ houses delivering the signs to their front yards.
“When I told the sheriff about the idea he offered to get me help in delivering them, but I thought it was important for me to be the one to hand them out,” Rogers said.
Amanda Sweatman, mother of one of Dawson County’s seniors, said that she and her daughter Sierra were both deeply touched by Rogers’ act of kindness in the middle of a challenging time.
“Being a senior parent this year, you’re dealing with a lot of negative emotions,” Sweatman said. “Feeling sadness, or a little shorthanded - but this brought a little happiness in a not-so-happy situation.”
Rogers didn’t tell anyone that he was coming with the signs, but Sweatman said that as soon as they started appearing on lawns, word began spreading on social media.
“I’m in a senior parents group on Facebook,” Sweatman said. “And everyone was talking about it. So we knew it was coming, and we were so excited to see the sign appear in the yard.”
Rogers said that he wasn’t expecting his gesture to make as much of an impact as it has.
“I figured something would come out on social media, like maybe a picture or something,” he said, “but I never imagined how much the kids would appreciate it. I’ve had an overwhelming amount of kids and parents reaching out with text messages or Facebook messages, just saying thanks.”
According to Rogers, one of his goals as a school resource officer has been to build positive relationships with the students at the high school.
“A lot of people don’t have a very high opinion of or are scared by law enforcement,” Rogers said. “So my goal was to build rapport with the kids and let them know that they can come to me if they need help or anything like that.”
This goal has paid off for Rogers according to Sweatman, who says her two daughters are among the many high schoolers who have become close to Rogers.
“My two high schoolers always talk about ‘Officer Jolly’,” Sweatman said. “He’s always there for the kids, and delivering signs is just another step above and beyond.”
In addition to delivering the signs to every senior, Rogers put a personal message on the back of each one.
“He put a message on the back for each one of them, words of encouragement, a little ‘atta boy’ or something,” Sweatman said. “I know there was a lot of work put into it, and it just means so much to the whole community.”