By Paul Burton

SOMERVILLE (CBS) – Police officers in Somerville are putting a new twist on the buddy system. They are mentoring sixth graders and promising to stick with them until high school graduation.

It’s common for police officers to visit a classroom and meet students. But the commitment that Somerville officers are making is rare.

It’s all part of a new initiative called STEPS: Students and Teachers Engage in Public Safety.

“We want to know what their challenges are, we want to know what issues they’re having, so that we can help them,” said Somerville Police Officer Stephen Jones.

The program involves Somerville Police officers forming bonds and friendships with sixth grade Somerville Public School children every year.

“To come into buildings talk to them see how they are doing find the positive in what the students are doing, as opposed to when you normally see police from you normally see police you think there’s a problem,” says Winter Hill Community Innovation School Principal Chad Mazza.

In light of the tensions between the police and the community throughout the country, STEPS aims to form friendly relationships early to prevent future problems.

“I think it’s critical considering what’s been happening these days,” Mazza said. “I think this is a great way to start some positive relationships.”

What makes the STEPS initiative so unique is that this is not a one and done program. These officers will follow these students from the junior and high school career for a total of seven years.

“I kind of like this type of safety because if you have a problem you can talk to him,” student Shanay Morales said.

“We can develop a relationship and it’s really good for the students too because they have someone they can look up to,” says student Rafael Menezes.

And someone they can trust.

Paul Burton