An Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper is walking into classrooms across the Ohio Valley with some books and his badge and he's making a big impact.
Trooper Chase Watts said growing up in the classrooms and hallways of Martins Ferry Schools, he was the class clown.
It's no surprise now that he's using his sense of humor to show kids what's behind the badge, "This person that's supposed to be serious all the time and they're like oh wow he's joking and having fun, it's like a whole other type of excitement for them," Trooper Watts said.
Volunteering off-duty with a tub full of books, badge stickers, and jokes, he's reached over 45,000 kids in 18 different schools during the first year of his original program, 'Books with Badges'.
So far, he's seen firsthand how the program is teaching lessons that go beyond the pages of Paw Patrol, "At the first school I went to, there was a child there and there was a deputy and they were like I remember you, you arrested my Dad, and we're like Oh, No, you know. But, at the same time, that child got to see the other side of that deputy like Oh, he's not just here to arrest my Dad, I'm having fun, and he just was drawn to him," Trooper Watts added.
"They go on calls and they see the children and they're like hey you came and read to me you know and it's a stressful situation you know their parent is sick but they remember that firefighter, that paramedic that came to read to them so they're relaxed in that situation."
The program is growing and fast. He's already taken the presentation into five schools outside of the Ohio Valley. Trooper Watts said it's all thanks to the support of the community, "It is a blessing everybody is on board. I have had so many people that I don't even know say hey this is great we want to donate you know just whatever whether it's to help buy stickers or whatever you need so I'm really appreciative of that."
During every visit Trooper Watts said it's rewarding to hear kids say 'I want to be just like you!' but he hopes all students who take the 'Books with Badges Pledge' are empowered to be anything they want, "A school will send their little artwork, and they draw a card and say thank you, and it's a color, you know they're half spelling things right, and I have my spare room at home it's just all the little things from the events I've done, so it's just really cool to see that."
Trooper Watts' next goal is a mobile library to take into neighborhoods. Check out the Books with Badges Facebook page to find out how you can support his mission.