About 30 pre-K students gathered in a commons area at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech’s location along Chew Avenue on Tuesday morning to hear from special guest Matt McCuen.
McCuen’s introduction made clear that he was, in fact, the parent of one of the students sitting on circular pillows or mats. And, his attire made it clear that McCuen was, in fact, a Philadelphia police officer.
Sporting a headset with microphone to connect with children who have cochlear implants or hearing aids — Clarke aims to equip the “deaf and hard of hearing with the listening, learning and spoken language skills they need to succeed” — McCuen spoke about his job in Northwest Philadelphia’s 14th police district.
As the father of 3-year-old and 19-month-old children who suffer hearing ailments, the night-shift officer fit right in.
McCuen told the kids that he and his co-workers’ jobs are to “make sure you and your family are safe,” and imparted lessons about calling 9-1-1 if they, or their family, are in danger.
Then came show-and-tell time with the items on a police officer’s belt: Car keys, handcuffs, a flashlight (that he said he found in the laundry hamper thanks to a certain little boy in the room) and a holstered gun that represents the “very, very last resort” of peace-keeping.
“We gotta make sure Santa is safe until he gets presents to everyone,” said McCuen when asked about his work schedule during a cute question-and-answer session.
Among the other topics of the youths’ interest:
Can you call 911 for a lost toy? No.
Do you ride a bicycle for work? How about a horse? “I do not, but some officers do.”
Do you have a whistle? Yes.
Do you have a cage? “Like a jail? Yes, we have one of those.”
From there, the children were led outside to see a real-life police cruiser (with lights, sirens and all) and agreed that the back seat of said vehicle is one place they never want to sit.
A personal connection
Posing with his son and classmates for photos outside Clarke, which is located in a Germantown Hospital and Medical Center building, McCuen spoke about limited access to programs like this, which are designed to help children like his own.
Thanks to an understanding boss, he was able to shift his work schedule to accomodate childcare for him and his wife, who is a teacher.
His wife’s online research led them to Clarke, after being told that the PA School for the Deaf was their only educational option. (Parents and guardians need to stay nearby until their hearing-impaired children reach the age of three, he explained.)
“I don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t find [Clarke],” he said. “We’re lucky to be in a city that has these sorts of options, and CHOP.”
And then, the police officer and young students walked back inside the building for another round of photos before calling it a day.