The calendar says Thanksgiving week, but for police departments in Albany and Lebanon, it's BULB time all year long.
For those departments, however, BULB growth isn't measured in terms of tulips or daffodils, but in the bloom of good conduct and student achievement.
The acronym stands for Bringing Up Learning and Behavior. Now in its 10th year in Lebanon and fourth in Albany, BULB awards are given to middle-school students in both cities who shine in their efforts to overcome their circumstances, whatever they may be.
Sometimes, BULB award winners are students who used to struggle in school but have found a way to persevere. Sometimes they're ones who have tackled behavior referrals. And sometimes, schools say, they're just great at demonstrating they know how to be respectful and responsible.
Dala Johnson, Lebanon's community policing officer, runs the program in Lebanon. Laura Hawkins, crime prevention specialist, oversees it in Albany, where it began four years ago and was modeled on the Lebanon program.
Both cities solicit nominations of middle-school students from their respective school districts, then send a limo to their school to pick them up for a special ride around town. Both also hold ceremonies as part of the day that include certificates, photo opportunities, bags of goodies, and an out-loud reading of the BULB nomination from each child's teacher.
In Lebanon, the honorees are chosen monthly, from a rotating list of schools. They get a limo ride to a catered breakfast at the city's Justice Center and a chance to meet city dignitaries. At the end of the school year, all the winners for the year are invited to a private Santiam Excursion train ride followed by a barbecue, and get a special invitation to walk in the Junior Strawberry Parade.
In Albany, honorees are chosen three times a year and get chauffeured to pizza and bowling. They go home with an APD backpack, a T-shirt, pencils and other "APD swag," Hawkins quipped.
BULB has three separate missions, said Lt. Travis Giboney of the Albany Police Department, who works with Hawkins on the program: It gives police officers a chance to connect with youngsters in an informal, congratulatory setting; it acknowledges hard work from students who may not usually get noticed; and it provides a wakeup call to anyone wondering whether good behavior is really worth it.
"When that big ol' limo pulls up in front of the school and they get to go out for pizza, hopefully that's a little incentive for some of the other kids to see that: 'Maybe it is worthwhile to try a little harder,'" Giboney said.
In Lebanon, Johnson said she has seen the effects grow through the years. "It has definitely made the kiddos better people, and they now work to be BULB winners," she said. "We are seeing the awards becoming more focused not only on behavior but attitude, grades and sports."
Both programs are good example of public-private partnerships, department representatives said.
Jordon Ford, principal of Hamilton Creek School, said he used to be a part of nominating students as a teacher at Seven Oak. It's hard to say whether the program worked as an incentive, he said, but he and other teachers did use it that way, telling students, "You're really close to a BULB award."
"I think it's great," he added. "I think we ought to honor students' hard work."
In Albany, Hawkins said she'll never forget one girl who acknowledged she was terrified on seeing notification of her BULB award in the mail. She didn't know why the police department would be contacting her and thought she might be in trouble.
"I have never been recognized for anything," Hawkins said she remembered the girl seeing. "I've never received a reward."
Added Hawkins: "It just made the whole day worth it."