It all comes down to trust. It’s what Michael Kurz believes connects him to the community he serves, which can’t be easy when you’re a police officer working with school children.
As a Porter County Sheriff’s deputy and School Resource Officer for Portage Township Schools, Kurz works full time to ensure that students, faculty and staff at Willowcreek Middle School are provided with positive images of law enforcement.
“I feel like people are more able to open up and express themselves when they can trust and rely on somebody and let them know what’s going on,” Kurz said. “If the students need someone to talk to or they are having a rough day, I’m here for them.”
Growing up in Chesterton, Kurz, was heavily influenced by positive role models in law enforcement with his stepfather being a Porter County Sheriff officer. Being around the police department made his transition to law enforcement an easy decision.
“I started my law enforcement career in 2007 by working at the Porter County jail and applied to become a Patrol Officer to further that career in 2016,” Kurz said. “I was hired from the jail to work in the patrol side to become a full-time police officer.”
Initially volunteering as a part-time School Resources Officer, Kurz made the decision to take the full-time position because of his love for children.
“I’m just a big kid. I’ve always enjoyed children, having two little girls of my own and a host of nieces and nephews.”
His experience at the Porter County jail also helped influence his work with the students at Willowcreek Middle School.
“I’ve always loved talking to people; it’s one of my favorite things. Working in the jail and talking to people, whether good or bad, I got to learn about their stories,” Kurz said. “Having someone they could vent to allowed them to trust, and I brought that with me to the school.”
In addition to keeping the school safe, Kurz sets examples and reinforces the idea that police are here to help and can be positive role models.
According to the Portage Township Schools website, the School Resource Officer is supposed to build interaction that promotes self-esteem and trust while interacting with students, faculty and parents as well as educating students about the law.
Most recently, Kurz was able to uphold this goal by being a great sport and taking some pies to the face, in the name of charity and being a positive role model.
“One of the teachers started a collection for Toys for Tots for teachers that were willing to be piped in the face,” Kurz said. “One of the students asked if he could bring in a $20 bill to personally throw a pie in my face, and I said, ‘If you bring in $20, you can definitely throw a pie in my face.’”
What started out as a collection from the sixth graders ended up being a school-wide event. “We made an announcement to the school that whoever brought in a $20 bill could personally throw a pie in my face,” Kurz said. “I ended up having six kids pie me in the face, and one kid brought in $40.”
“Since I started here, I wanted to hit the ground running and get involved as much as possible,” he said. “When I saw this opportunity, I took it as a way to interact with the students so they can see me as a positive influence.”
Right before Christmas break, Kurz took the initiative to form a teacher's team to play with the students in the intramural Volleyball tournament.
“I just want to be visible and be there for the kids so they know who I am, what I stand for, and that they can have a positive relationship with law enforcement.”
“Law enforcement is like any other profession, you have your good eggs and your bad eggs, and one egg can spoil it for the whole bunch. If I can be the person that mends those wounds in this community, I believe I’ve done my part.”
Kurz encourages those who want to enter law enforcement to stay persistent. “It’s not always the easiest journey. I didn’t get hired as a police officer my first time. I applied to multiple departments and was turned down six times before I was finally given the chance. Like anything, it takes hard work and dedication to achieve your goals, and that's what I’ve been doing.”