APPLING, Ga. (WJBF) — School resource officer Lee Peck walked the halls of North Columbia Elementary School as a student in 1998. Now, he walks them with a different purpose. He is responsible for keeping 427 students safe.
“It’s been great coming back and working in the school I grew up in,” he says.
Principal Tonya Gambrell says Peck goes above and beyond his job description every day. He has gotten to know each student and knows them all by name.
“When he was hired at the school, I told him the most important thing is building relationships,” Gambrell explains. “He has really met that challenge.”
Gambrell says this is why she nominated Peck for the Georgia Department of Education’s inaugural RISE Award, which recognizes inspiring school employees. School staffers throughout the state were nominated. Governor Brian Kemp’s office ultimately chose Peck as one of two winners.
“It’s honoring because I feel like I’m trying to dedicate my life to this school and these children,” Peck says.
With tensions high in the world, Peck says it is important for children to see law enforcement in a positive light.
“I want to build a relationships with these children so they see that we’re people too. They can enjoy us as people and not something scary.”
Peck and RISE Award winners from each state will now be considered for the National RISE Award, which is selected by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Win or lose, he says he has found his home at North Columbia Elementary School.
“I’m going to stay here. This will be the school I retire from.”