With Burlington High School (BHS) graduation just around the corner, the school is ready to say some difficult farewells. Among the most difficult will be saying goodbye to Officer Brian Difranco, the Student Resource Officer (SRO) at BHS. Difranco is an officer on the Burlington Police Force and has been working in Burlington schools for 11 years. Now that his contract is up, Difranco prepares for a bittersweet goodbye and a return to patrol work.
Although Difranco said he won’t miss the everyday politics at BHS, he is going to miss walking the halls. Mostly, he said, he will miss the students: watching and guiding them as they navigate through the complexities of high school.
“I love seeing these freshmen, who may start as a pain in the butt, go on through high school and graduate and get scholarships and go to college,” Difranco said. “I love to see the change in their lives over the course of the years and when they realize how successful they can really be.”
Difranco said his goal is to build relationships with kids, but that he has found that it isn’t always easy to gain a teen’s trust when in uniform.
“Police officers aren’t always welcomed here. People think that police officers are here to drag people out and put them in jail, which is definitely not the case,” Difranco said. “Our main goal is to build relationships with the kids and help them solve problems. We try our best to break those stereotypes.”
Although this process can be difficult, Difranco has found a way to make the right impact on students.
Bienfait Badibanga, a BHS senior, said he thinks that Difranco has found a way to connect with students, even in the uniform.
“He is a friend of everyone. He’s always there for people who need help and doesn’t care how much trouble you have. If I have a problem with another officer he can always tell me what to do or say. He is an officer you can trust,” Badibanga said. “He has fun with everybody and most people take him as a normal person even if he has a uniform. We will all miss him.”
Difranco’s impact hasn’t been limited to students during his time at BHS. Jesse Cope, who works in the student support center at BHS, noticed something unique about Difranco.
“Officer Difranco, we’re going to miss him. His style was a little different. I’ve been here for 20 years and I’ve seen some pretty serious SRO’s in this building. Difranco is special because of his compassion, his understanding. He’s a good brother, a good one to have on your team,” Cope said.
Just as the BHS community sees something special in Difranco, the officer urges BHS to recognize its unique characteristics that he has come to love.
“There are so many different people and cultures and worldviews here. And it’s really unique to Burlington. No one else has this,” Difranco said.
As this chapter closes for a class of BHS students, it also ends for the longtime leader and trusted member of the Burlington community, to whom many say they owe endless thanks.