By Kathleen Swift
School resource officers (SRO) play an important role in our schools. They work with school administrators in developing school safety plans to ensure students have a safe place to learn. But, they do so much more in supporting our students.
Buck Owen, who is the SRO at McDonald County High School, came to his position through a series of life-changing events.
A native of McDonald County, Owen was diagnosed with A.L.L. leukemia in 1987 when he was six years old. “I was placed on high levels of chemotherapy, bringing the cancer into remission in 1993. After graduating high school, I started my college education to be a teacher. Those goals changed when I found a career I loved in law enforcement. After marrying my wife, Tracy, I took a management job, and left the law enforcement career to better provide for my family. My management career took us to North Carolina where I learned I had advanced stage cirrhosis caused from the chemotherapy I had received as a child.
“Shortly after my diagnosis, I discovered that the school resource officer position became available back home in McDonald County. This was a dream job, combining two of my passions, teaching and law enforcement. We moved home to McDonald County, and I accepted the position.”
As his disease progressed, Owen was placed on a transplant list at UAMS in Little Rock to receive a new liver. Because of his distance from the hospital, Owen missed several opportunities to receive a donated organ.
Owen explained, “This led us to temporarily relocate to a campground in Little Rock over summer break. We received three more dry-run calls before getting the one call that worked out on July 31, 2020. We were initially told the transplant would require a 10-14 day stay in the hospital, 6-8 week stay in the Little Rock area for biweekly follow ups, and at least 6 months before returning to work. However, the road to recovery has been amazing! After a short six-day stay in the hospital, we were back home in three weeks, and I was back at work with the students in less than six weeks.
“Becoming an SRO in McDonald County was one of the best decisions of my life. These kids aren’t just students, they’re “my kids,” and I strive to not be just a cop in the school, but a mentor, and a friend, someone they can look up to and feel safe coming to with their problems. These kids are a part of my family!”
For Owen, the job is about making vital personal connections with students. “I know the kids, and I know most of their parents. I spend a lot of time talking to the kids, and when one of them gets into trouble, I have an established relationship with them. Instead of only throwing the book at them, I can help them through the problem. Building trust is important because the kids know they can share issues with me.”
Owen’s transplant has been successful, and he has never felt better.
“The support we received from the community during this time has been unbelievable. It’s that huge heart and family feel that makes McDonald County such a special place to call home.
“Life isn’t always easy, but I’m thankful for every situation, easy or tough. Each of them prepared me for where I am today, and there is no place I’d rather be!
“When I can look at one of my kids and say I’ve been there, I know what you’re going through, and I know you’ll get through this, it makes every difficult place in my life worth it.”