Seventeen-year-old Tobi Harris' mom is active-duty military, and when she heard what her son was doing Wednesday night, she uttered words Tobi would echo: "It's quite a bit of an honor."
Harris and two other students from Mesa Ridge High School presented large oak flags to El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey, and a representative of the family of the recently fallen Deputy Micah Flick.
"We're giving these flags to people who help and protect our community," Harris said.
Mesa Ridge Principal Scott Sage made the 2-foot-by-3-foot wooden flags. A thin blue line between the stripes pays homage to law enforcement.
Sage had the idea to recognize the work of the local Sheriff's Office and Police Department long before Flick was shot and killed Feb. 5 during an auto theft investigation. Sage made a third flag for Flick's family.
"I wanted law enforcement to know we support them and appreciate the support they provide us day in and day out," Sage said.
The students presented the flags at Wednesday's Youth Advisory Council for Law Enforcement meeting. It was Mesa Ridge High's turn to host the monthly event.
Elder and Carey jointly formed the group three years ago to open the lines of communication and bridge the gap between teenagers and law enforcement.
About 40 students from different area high schools and diverse backgrounds attend the gatherings, where law enforcement leaders talk frankly with students about a slew of issues that aren't often a topic of conversation: Teen suicide, homelessness, drug use, self-harm, social media shaming and bullying, violence and the legality of certain actions.
"It's a gateway for us to get in their heads and for us to understand how times are changing and figure out how we can help kids today," said sheriff's Deputy Quinlan Linebaugh, a resource officer at Mesa Ridge High and other schools in Widefield School District 3.
"There's no judgment, no repercussions," Linebaugh said.
"We talk about topics no one really brings up or goes into depth about," said 16-year-old Chance Dunavin, a Mesa Ridge sophomore and advisory council member.
The last meeting was all about marijuana: the good, the bad, the ugly. Wednesday's focus was on what's behind the badge, meaning what school resource officers do.
The open-forum discussions are student-driven, Linebaugh said, and law enforcement who attend, including school resource officers, act as moderators.
Rachel Huntsman, 16, wants to study law enforcement after high school and got involved as a way to learn more about the profession. The advisory council "gives police students' views of how kids see it," she said. "It shows kids do trust cops, and kids aren't all bad."
The group is important, Dunavin said, because "it shows teenagers are trying to get involved and aren't the stereotype."
Sgt. Lisa Cintron, one of two CSPD officers who oversees school resource officers, said the students on the council are impressive.
"These young adults are inquisitive, articulate, have little difficulty expressing themselves and honestly speak for the youth in our community to the best of their ability," she said. "They're quick to ask questions and provide support and opinions on the issue presented."
The project has been deemed a success, Cintron said.
"The students offer a perspective to law enforcement that we value and are interested in, and for that reason amongst many it's valuable," she said. "Obviously, we'd like to encourage and improve police and youth relationships, and it's been very productive and a healthy relationship for everybody."