KNOXVILLE, Tenn — A simple stroll outside with one of her favorite 4th graders is a breath of fresh air for Knoxville Police Officer Shelley Clemons, especially after a stressful year of being cooped up during a pandemic.
"I come to visit her during her lunch time, and we either catch up on what's going on at school, at home or in the community," Ofc. Clemons said.
Ofc. Clemons and 10 year old Kalisha were matched last year through Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee.
They have shared a lot with each other over the months, including their feelings on recent events in the community.
"When she's talking to me, and I'm really mad at some things, like if somebody got hurt or something, she would come around and I calm down," Kalisha said.
Sometimes her friends at school join the conversation, mostly hanging out for fun.
Ofc. Clemons sees it as an opportunity.
"Officers aren't robots. We aren't heartless. We have a heart," she said. "It's important to me that since I'm sitting with her amongst her peers, that they understand they can have conversations with me like that. I don't want them to be intimidated by my uniform. I want us to be able to talk and be friends and just be able to have girl talk if that be the case."
She hopes her openness will pave the way for a deep and lasting friendship with Kalisha in a time when connecting has never been so important.
"Just being able to open up and have an adult that you can talk to is very important," she said. "I'll follow her wherever she goes."
More than 100 children are currently on the waiting list for a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee, but there are not enough volunteers.
Click here to get involved.