LAND O'LAKES — Whether she is helping to ensure the safety of students and staff members at Pine View Middle School or reading poetry aloud while performing her best William Shatner impression, Pine View school resource officer Cpl. Elissa Elders has one mission and objective in mind.
"I want to be a light in the life of these students," Elders said.
In her two years as the SRO at Pine View, Elders, who has worked at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office for more than a decade, always has counted the safety of students as her top priority. She counsels students who are dealing with bullying issues and behavioral problems; talks to classes about drug and alcohol issues, as well as the risks associated with social media; and works to keep the school safe and secure.
"As an SRO, I work to ensure the safety and protection of students," said Elders, a former student Explorer officer and volunteer firefighter. "We have a great school, but I'm here to deal with any crime that comes up like theft, as well as bus stop problems, etc.
"When I put on my cop face, the kids know I'm serious," said Elders, who also works sometimes with students at Pine View Elementary School. "I'm here to make sure they obey the rules."
At the same time, Elders wants students to remember one important message.
"I'm a person, just like you," she said. "I just wear a badge."
Elders has an open-door policy when it comes to students. And when they step into her office, they see a vast assortment of bobblehead dolls, action figures and a pet guinea pig named Guinea (pronounced Gui-nay, per student suggestion).
"If students are upset, they can come in and pet her while they get their feelings and thoughts in focus," said Elders.
Elders also leads a Walking Dead fan club at the school, where students gather in the cafeteria and discuss the popular television show. She has been known to trade in her uniform for a period gown befitting a Southern belle to participate in Civil War re-enactments at the school. And she leads students in spirited musical performances known as Corporal Karaoke.
"I also like to give out rewards for good behavior," she said. "And on my birthday, I hand out tiaras and presents to students."
In the eyes of Pine View Middle assistant principal Kyle Ritsema, Elders offers far more to the school's students than material gifts.
"Cpl. Elders is a huge asset to PVMS," said Ritsema. "She is here for the students. She works for them."