West Hempstead students express gratitude with ‘Cards for Cops’

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Students in the West Hempstead School District created handmade cards to be distributed to police officers throughout the five boroughs on Dec. 11. ‘Cards for Cops’ is a program sponsored by BeyondTheBadgeNY, a local nonprofit started by West Hempstead alumni Michelle Panetta.

Panetta wanted to collaborate with her alma mater for the cause and reached out to a special educator for assistance. Barbara Silkes, a third grade teacher at Cornwell Avenue, helped her former student to connect with the principals in the district and facilitated the take-off of the program. 

“I was so excited for the district to embrace this endeavor and each school did just that with vigor,” said Silkes. 

BeyondTheBadgeNY encourages positive relationships between local communities and law enforcement. It also aims to raise mental health awareness for police officers and believes small acts of kindness can make profound differences in people’s lives. Panetta’s niece inspired the idea for ‘Cards for Cops.’  

“My husband is a police officer and my niece made a card for him to say thank you for keeping her and her friends safe,” said Panetta. “He still holds onto the card to this day, and that’s where my idea for ‘Cards for Cops’ came from.” 

Panetta receives thousands of cards from schools and community centers from all over the state and introducing the program to West Hempstead schools was a natural step. Ryan Emmanuel-Cooke, director of arts for the district, was thrilled for the chance to have students spread positivity through creativity. 

“A small gesture goes a long way and can help restore someone’s hope or maybe even change how they’re thinking during a hard time in their life,” said Ryan. “And that is exactly what these cards will do.”  

Students from Chestnut Street, George Washington, Cornwell Avenue and West Hempstead Middle School created handmade cards for police officers with sentiments of gratitude and well wishes. Some students had the chance to give their cards directly to police officers.  

Officers Serrano and Brown from the community affairs division in the Nassau County Police Department visited fifth grade students at George Washington. The officers answered questions from students and led a thoughtful, positive conversation. At the end of the gathering, students excitedly gave the officers their cards. Officers Serrano and Brown returned the favor by handing out hacky sacks to the students. 

The district would like to thank BeyondTheBadgeNY and the officers who serve our community on a daily basis. 

To learn more about BeyondTheBadgeNY, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BeyondTheBadgeNY.