Way back in 1998-1999, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office adopted a recognition program for students who “Do the Right Thing,” (DTRT for short). Students are identified and nominated by a teacher, principal, neighbor, parent or other relative for demonstrating exceptional initiative in their responses to needs they’ve identified or emergencies they faced in their daily lives. The Naples Police Department joined the DTRT program in 2017. Both of these local law enforcement DTRT National Chapter members join 66 other chapters across the United States.
Since the program began, hundreds of students have been recognized for their honorable efforts, most without even knowing that such a program exists. They “Do the Right Thing” without thinking about recognition; they’re just focused on doing what’s right and in some cases, act in a split second.
These students from grade K through 12 have been nominated for a positive action that stands out so much that a teacher, relative, administrator, neighbor or parent felt strongly enough to complete a “Do the Right Thing” nomination form (on the “QT” of course) on the Collier County Sheriff’s Office or the Naples Police Department websites.
The nominations are reviewed, which has to be difficult and also heart-wrenching, because of the amazing leadership of the nominees. The goal of DTRT is to “recognize and reward children for positive behavior, outstanding accomplishments in the community, and good deeds.”
Another benefit of the collaboration between the Sheriff’s Department, the Naples Police Department, and our students is the positive relationships that are developed. For some students, this could be a unique experience with law enforcement personnel that is rewarding and that builds trust and understanding. For others, it’s reinforcement of the safe conversations and relationships already formed.
Before COVID-19 changed the way we meet and with how many we can have in attendance, honorees were invited to Lorenzo Walker Technical College on Estey Avenue with their families, including siblings and grandparents, for the award ceremony. Each honored student listened to their amazing “Do the Right Thing” nomination read by Corporal Eric Grundeman. Several distinguished members of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, along with teachers and principals, attend to show their support for the students who demonstrated exemplary behavior or took initiative in a positive manner that went above and beyond. Usually, it brings tears to the eyes of audience members and hearts burst with pride for their children.
Corporal Grundeman, who has been the lead on the DTRT for several years, has always conducted very professional and humorous presentations. He presents each student with a trophy, certificate, and other assorted gift cards and free coupons to mini-golf and other safe outdoor activities donated by local stores and restaurants. Refreshments, created by the Culinary Arts students, are enjoyed and appreciated.
But wait! In March 2020, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office cancelled the DTRT ceremonies because it was problematic to gather large groups in person. What are the plans now, under the dark COVID cloud, to recognize our amazing CCPS students?
The imagination is a powerful tool. The Naples Police Department moved the ceremony, safely, outside their Department or outside the school where the student is honored.
Corporal Grundeman and like-minded people at the Sheriff’s office put their heads together and designed a new way to honor the students and stay outside at a safe distance. Luckily for me, I was able to participate in one of these ceremonies, called “Drive-Ups”, and it was an honor.
This is a very positive “Drive-Up.” The Collier County Sheriff’s Office invites teachers, administrators, and school board members to a “secret” recognition event. Cars with all the participants line up ahead of time to drive to the recipient’s address with lights flashing and horns honking. The parent or guardian is notified of the award event, but the student is shocked because they don’t know about the award, which makes the surprise more fun. Everything is done outside; photos are carefully posed and it’s a tribute to our students in a unique way.
The student I had a chance to recognize was one that stepped up to help the children in his neighborhood when their traditional holiday stockings weren’t going to be distributed this year. Jonathan Rodriguez took it upon himself to use his savings and collect additional money so the children could have the traditional stockings with treats as they had hoped. He planned and handled the whole surprise. Jonathan’s a Boy Scout who followed his creed. I was as proud of him as his own mother… well, almost.
What was also exciting during this Drive-Up was that so many neighbors came out to support Jonathan and his family. It was obvious that this is a close-knit neighborhood that cares deeply for each other.
If you’re curious, like me, you probably want to know what things our students have been recognized for. I’m only going to mention a handful due to space, with the first names and the “Right Thing” that was recognized, to give you an idea of the wide range of good deeds that are recognized by the DTRT local chapters. Hopefully, you’ll be as surprised and pleased as I am.
Presley called 911 when his friend fell and possibly broke his arm. He stayed with his friend and gave directions while remaining calm until the ambulance arrived.
Ethan and Taylor found a wallet with cash and credit cards and took it to the address on the license.
Cooper organized a charity and for his birthday and asked for donations so he could purchase bike helmets for the elementary students who didn’t have one.
Jasmine saved her cousin from drowning when she fell into a lake.
Anthony found some pepper spray on his way to school and his friends wanted him to spray it. Instead, he turned it in to an adult.
Nico realized his mom was having a medical emergency while driving and called 911, helped guide his mom to the hospital parking lot, and ran inside for help.
Addison noticed that her friend in the deep end of the pool was struggling, so she jumped in and pulled her friend up from under the water.
Shaylee, an avid reader, donated her books to the school library because she realized that some of her classmates didn’t have any books of their own.
Yahir, a safety patrol, noticed that a first grader dropped his ball and it rolled into oncoming traffic. When the first grader ran after it, Yahir grabbed the boy and saved him from an oncoming car.
Great kids, great decisions, and great recognitions to keep them going!
For more information about this program, go to dotherightthinginc.org or to naplesgov.com or colliersheriff.org for additional information, the nomination form or to donate gift cards or free opportunities to commend the DTRT awardees.