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Making Connections students and officers work with elementary schools to spread holiday cheer

On Wednesday, December 8, Downingtown Area School District’s (DASD) Making Connections program students and law enforcement officers visited six elementary schools to help spread holiday cheer. Lionville student creates greeting card

Making Connections brings together African American students from DASD’s three high schools and members of local law enforcement to learn and grow together while supporting their community. During the summer of 2020, DASD parent and employee, Shanette Bernard, founded the program after reflecting upon how she could create change in her own community. “As a Black woman and the daughter of a police officer, I wanted to dispel the fear that ‘all cops are bad,’ while also helping to humanize the African American community for our local law enforcement,’ Bernard explained.

Chester County law enforcement jumped at the opportunity and quickly joined forces with Bernard to develop the program. Uwchlan Township Police Chief Scott Alexander elaborated, “Working in partnership with the community is an incredibly important aspect of successful law enforcement, and happens to be the keystone of the Uwchlan Township Police Department Mission Statement.”

When school began last fall, Bernard’s son, Evan, now a graduate of Downingtown STEM Academy, took the charge to his classmates, inviting them to meet via Zoom with police to ask questions and learn about law enforcement while also creating relationships with the officers. Together, the students and police officers conceived the Making Connections program. Evan explained, “the group’s purpose is to create connections between African American teens and local law enforcement through ongoing community-based activities and conversations. The hope is that the meaningful relationships fostered in this program will lead to stronger foundations for the future.”

Making Connections has hosted a variety of community service events including a food drive, the beautifying of the Veteran’s & First Responder’s Memorial and donating food and school supply baskets to local families in need. This December, the Making Connections students and law enforcement officers from East Brandywine, Uwchlan, Upper Uwchlan, Downingtown Borough and the State Police Departments partnered to create holiday greeting cards and decorative food donation boxes. Together, they went to seven local DASD elementary schools and worked with the children to write greeting cards, decorate food donation boxes with holiday motifs and spread the spirit of the season. Bernard explained, “The cards and boxes will be given to the Chester County Food Bank who will fill the boxes with the students’ cards and food and then deliver them to senior citizens in the local area. We are sure the seniors will be delighted to see the students’ artwork and it will bring joy to their hearts this time of year.” 

Adding to the fun, students also received a special visit from Deputy District Attorney Bonnie Cox-Shaw, Communications Director for the District Attorney’s office Michelle Bjork, as well as DASD’s Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Justin Brown. “It’s great to bring everyone together, especially for the holidays. It warms my heart to see students working together to benefit families within our community. This is true inclusion and belonging.”

Students and officers show off their workDirector Brown added, “We are so grateful to our principals, DA Cox-Shaw, Mr. Bjork, as well as Chief Holland, Chief DeMarco, Chief Alexander, Chief Kocsi, and Trooper MacIntyre for their time and generosity to our community. DASD is an amazing community that sincerely cares about one another. I hope we will continue to see this all year long; our wonderful DASD students will make sure it happens.”

To learn more about Making Connections, please visit