When the coronavirus pandemic kept police officers from their day-to-day community outreach, some turned to social media as a platform to read and share books with children in their district. This neighborly outreach has seen wide adoption among police departments across the country, including in Lynn, Mass, where Jenna McCarriston ’22 has spearheaded the new “Lynn Badges and Books” literacy program.
The idea came to the criminal justice major when she became frustrated in her search for a fall internship. For her and many students this year, the economic impact of the public health crisis has limited job and internship opportunities. McCarriston took matters into her own hands and decided to create her own internship position after a conversation with her mother, an ESL Coach for Lynn Public Schools. McCarriston wanted to create an internship that “would make a difference in the world” and more specifically, make a contribution at a time when tensions have escalated between officers and community members. "We talked about doing an internship that would help strengthen the relationship between police officers and the communities they serve," she said.
In just a few weeks, McCarriston created “Lynn Badges and Books.” She first proposed the program to the Lynn Superintendent of Schools, along with the Lynn Police Department Chief. The proposal was approved with flying colors, and McCarriston is now integrating the program into various curriculums across Lynn public schools. Each week, police personnel record readings of high-interest books that are used in the classroom. In addition to spearheading the program’s inception, McCarriston’s internship work involves sourcing children’s books, recording each officer on-site reading stories, and uploading the videos to YouTube to send out to the Superintendent.
While McCarriston’s ultimate career goal is to work for the FBI, she hopes to make her mark in the criminal justice system as a police officer after graduation. "I want to protect and serve my community and do right by them. I want to show people that there are good cops around us who speak up on corruption and injustice issues. I want to be the change."
She credits the criminal justice program at Curry for positioning her for success. "Every professor I have had has challenged me to think critically about the CJ system and to look at every side of a situation," she says. "If I hadn't come to Curry College, I wouldn't have had these classes to expand what I know and teach me the important things that I don't. With the education from Curry and the amazing professors I've had, I feel prepared to achieve my goals."