LYNN — Jenna McCarriston, a Marblehead resident and Curry College student, hopes to build trust between Lynn police and the community through books.
This fall, she created Lynn Books and Badges, a program which has taken off in the Lynn schools.
The idea: Each week, police officers record readings of books that are shared with students throughout the Lynn school system.
“It’s such a simple idea to have officers read children’s books,” said McCarriston who studies criminal justice at Curry. “But sometimes it’s simple ideas that make a huge difference.”
The concept occurred to her when she was struggling to find a fall internship, a difficult task due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I thought, why don’t I create my own internship that will actually have real positive effects,” she said.
McCarriston’s mother, Christine, is an ESL coach in Lynn public schools, and her father, Richard, is a Swampscott police officer, so combining education and policing was an idea that made a lot of sense to her.
As the daughter of a police officer. She is also the granddaughter of Lynn cable TV sportscaster John Hoffman.
McCarriston has always felt as though she could have a close relationship with police in her town, and wanted to help build that sense of trust between the police and the community of Lynn.
She was particularly concerned by the escalated tensions between law enforcement and communities across the country in the wake of the George Floyd shooting.
“I just couldn’t sit around doing nothing,” she said.
“It’s important that young kids who will grow up with these police officers know them and interact with them, and build that trust and that relationship with them. As a society, we really need to build this trust between one another,” she said. “It’s very important to me to get everyone on the same page.”
To get the program started, McCarriston first went to Patrick Tutwiler, the Superintendent of Lynn Public Schools and then to the Lynn Chief of Police, Michael Mageary. Both of them were excited about the project.
McCarriston was then referred to Oren Wright, the School Resource Officer who served as the site supervisor for her internship. Wright says that he plays the role of “talent recruitment,” because he picks the officers to read the books each week.
Officers soon started recording videos featuring books such as “What to Do With a Problem” by Kobi Yamada and “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi.
As soon as the readings were released, there was a huge outpouring of support from the community.
“Each person that we went to had such a positive reaction and wanted to do this so badly,” said McCarriston. “The love and positivity has been overflowing.”
While McCarriston’s ultimate goal is to work in the FBI, she hopes to work as a police officer in Lynn for some time after her graduation.
“I want to protect and serve my community and do right by them,” she said. “The fact that I am so passionate about building trust in the community makes me think that I could actually make a difference.”
While her internship ends in early Dec., McCarriston hopes that Books and Badges keeps running afterwards.
“The love and positivity I’ve got about this program has been so overwhelming that I really hope it continues,” she said.