Alicia Maxey, like many other high school students, didn’t exactly know what she wanted her future job to entail when she was younger.
“I was looking hard to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she said.
But when her favorite high school teacher, Mr. Tilford, invited a guest speaker to her history class after units on the Supreme Court and the laws of the United States, Maxey knew.
The guest was the police chief of Mahomet. After he spoke to the class, the chief offered the students the opportunity to do a ride-along with one of his officers.
“I gladly accepted the offer and I rode one evening with Officer Dave Mikulich,” Maxey said. “He became my friend and mentor.”
Maxey said Mikulich took her under his wing like one of his own children and helped guide her as she decided what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
“I chose to become a police officer because I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life like he did in mine,” Maxey said.
And that she has.
Maxey was the School Resource Officer at St. Joseph-Ogden High School, St. Joseph Grade School, St, Joseph Middle School and Prairieview-Ogden for 19 years. She is currently on medical leave for a knee injury, and did not return to her job as SRO at SJO when the 2019-2020 school year began this week.
SJO Superintendent Brian Brooks said Maxey will be missed.
“Alicia has been outstanding for our high school, and will be missed greatly,” he said. “She was not only a School Resource Officer within our building, but she was also a very good female role model for our students. She has been a consistent presences at SJO for 19 years.”
Maxey said her goal when she decided to become an SRO was to make a difference in the lives of children.
“I wanted them to have a positive role model like I did,” she said. “I wanted to help them through the difficult times if they need it.”
2006 SJO graduate Ryan Barnes said Maxey was a positive role model for him.
“When I was in high school, I was going through a lot with my family. Mrs. Maxey, along with many others that were working at the school, took me under her wing and was always there for me when I needed someone most,” he said. “We didn’t always talk about what was going on with my family, but it was the consistency of knowing that I had someone there for me in a different setting which shows how much of a caring person she really is.”
Barnes said that while Maxey was there to protect the school, she also made connections with the student body that will last a lifetime.
“To this day, when I see her I feel as though we pick up right where we left off,” he said. “I would not be the person I am today if it hadn’t been for her.”
Maxey said it was important to her that she helped students build a relationship of trust with the police.
“I wanted to be the person to bridge that divide,” she said. “I hope that I have made a difference in the lives of some our children here in St Joseph and Ogden for the better. It’s all about the kids. They are the most important thing we can affect, and I loved doing it.”
Dwight Colvin, a 2019 SJO graduate, said Maxey did make a difference in his life.
“Officer Maxey is a great person,” he said. “She was always willing to help whenever I had issues.”
Bailey Wendt, a 2018 SJO graduate, said that Maxey was a family friend before she became her SRO.
“Officer Maxey has always been and always will be a great role model for me,” she said. “She is a great officer but an even more exceptional person.”
Maxey said working with students was her favorite part of her job. This included teaching students at Prairieview-Ogden Grade School and St. Joseph Grade School the steps to respect, which meant Maxey had to dance.
“Trying to dance with them was a blast,” she said.
She also enjoyed working SJO football games, teaching computer safety and teaching kids what to do if they were being bullied. She also helped run ALICE trainings for the schools where she taught them what to do in the event of an active shooter.
“I enjoyed all of my job that didn’t involve the kids being hurt or in pain,” she said.
SJO guidance counselor Terri Rein said she worked with Maxey often.
“She was always so good with the kids,” she said. “They felt comfortable talking with her.”
Rein said they would take a good cop/bad cop role when dealing with a situation. But it often didn’t work.
“It always ended up good cop/good cop,” Rein said. “Because she always wanted the best for the kids.”
Brooks said he feels Maxey has been an invaluable part of SJO because of her relationships with the students.
“Alicia had a very good rapport with the students,” he said. “Our students really trusted her, and viewed her as a valuable part of the SJO school environment. She cared deeply about all of our students, as well as the school in general, and it showed on a daily basis.”
Brooks said Maxey helped build relationships, rapport and trust between the police and the community in addition to doing numerous trainings with students and staff.
Brooks said he has known Maxey for 16 years and worked directly with her for 12 years. He said he enjoyed working with her and has a great amount of respect for her.
“I have seen nothing but the highest level of integrity from her as a person and as a professional, and I respect that greatly and have appreciated that about her,” he said. “She always wanted to assist in any way that she can on a daily basis to make SJO a better place for our student body, and she accomplished that. SJO is a better place because of her 19 years here.”
Mark Maddock, a 2018 SJO graduate, agreed.
“During my high school years, Alicia Maxey was a friend to me and any other students who took the time to get to know her,” he said.
Maddock said Maxey’s humor was a welcome relief when school work became too much, as was her kindness.
“Her ability to empathize made her perfect for her job,” he said. “The skill Alicia possessed in her work with these young adults will leave big shoes to fill after her departure from SJO.”
Maxey said earning the trust and respect of parents and students was challenging at times, along with dealing with a myriad of people, including parents, students, school administrators and school staff.
“But in the end I think I was able to most of the time,” she said. “It is rewarding and worth all the effort.”
Brooks said he felt Maxey’s presence at the school was important for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it gave the district a police presence within the school.
“Which I believe is becoming close to a necessity in today’s world unfortunately,” he said. “Safety for students and staff must always be our top priority as a school district and having an SRO is one more tool to assist us in keeping students and staff safe.”
Maxey said it is hard to know she will not start school this week with the students she has thought of as her own kids for 19 years, but she is focusing on the future.
“Right now, my plans are to continue working really hard to rehab my knee,” she said. “It is a daily struggle, but I am confident I will get there eventually.”
Maxey said she would be eligible to retire in May, but it was difficult to not go out on her own terms and leave without saying goodbye to the students.
“I would like to tell them that they have all touched my life, and I will be forever grateful for the chance to be a part of your lives however briefly,” she said. “I may not be in the building with you anymore, but you are all in my thoughts and prayers. Please give the new SRO a chance. He may not be able to dance and sing as well as I can, but you never know!”