MODESTO, Calif. -- Students in Modesto are busy training for their annual "10K With A Cop” race.
The run isn’t until May, but police officers have been out training with students almost every day right after school.
“We’re just here to help them out. We’re kind of like, the sprinkle in the donuts," Officer Juan Arroyo of the Modesto Police Department said.
After school runs at Shackelford Elementary School are motivated by police.
"It’s a running club and you get to run with cops, with polices [sic]," Evelyn Gonzalez, a 4th grade student at Shackelford Elementary School said.
Every Monday through Thursday, students like Gonzalez are hitting their makeshift track after school.
"We’re trying to instill self discipline and goal setting. So, with 10K With A Cop, first run you do is a mile run. You slowly build up to two miles, three miles, and eventually in May, we’ll be doing six miles," Arroyo said.
Arroyo runs with the students, on his own time, every day.
"I feel proud to come out here. I’m happy to do this," he said.
There's an officer assigned to all eight participating schools.
“It feels good running with them because you feel safe with them around you," Gonzalez said.
And it's about much more than just running.
"Our goal is to kind of build a bridge between law enforcement and students; to show them that we're also human, that we're not just out there arresting people because they did something bad, but there's also a human side to us," Arroyo said.
Teachers ABC10 spoke with said, in this day and age, these relationships are important.
“We want to create them in a positive light and not so negative. And they’ve been super involved, so far, and the kids just love it," Lisa McCabe, a teacher at Shackleford Elementary School said.
As they work together throughout the year, they're hoping to create trust with our community's most impressionable minds.
“But if we could get to them at a young age and show them that we’re human, just like they are -- we have our own families, we have our own animals to take care of, we have exciting things to do on our days off just like they do -- they’re not going to see us as the bad guy anymore. They’re going to see us as friends," Arroyo said.
Eventually ready to tackle six miles, their next run together as a district for Modesto City Schools is a 2K at Bret Harte Elementary School on October 27. They will work their way up to their 10K in May.
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