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Volunteers Come Together to Produce Free Training Video

By Becky Lewis
April  2013

Brothers ask each other for opinions on their work all the time, starting with homework and continuing into adult life. Little did Tom Agos, Crime Prevention Technician with the Gurnee (Ill.) Police Department, know that a request to his brother for an opinion would begin the process of turning a small project for one school district into a free school safety video with a national audience.

Attention Students and Staff, a 15-minute training video, can be obtained via secure download by schools and law enforcement agencies nationwide, and Agos says the Gurnee Police Department and Woodland District No. 50 are very excited about sharing the product with other agencies – although that possibility was far from their minds when the project started. Three days after the Dec. 14, 2012, tragedy in Newtown, Conn., Agos and Gurnee School Resource Officer Jim McDermott met with Woodland’s school safety team, which included district superintendent Dr. Joy Swoboda; Lori Casey, associate superintendent of education, and principals from each school building about the district’s safety plan. Out of that meeting came the goal of creating a training video for substitute teachers and other support staff brought into the school system after the annual August lockdown training. Agos drafted a script and asked his brother, Chicago-area professional actor Chris Agos, for input. Chris Agos not only provided feedback on the script, he offered his services as narrator and creative consultant. Free of charge.

Matt TillAnother piece of the project fell into place when Agos asked Matt Till, a fellow church member and instructor for the Television Department at Columbia College Chicago (one of the largest art colleges in the United States) about the possibility of borrowing a camera to shoot the video. Through Till’s efforts, Columbia College responded with donated equipment, a camera and lighting crew, student volunteers to edit video footage and compose music, and assistance, along with Chris Agos, with a casting call for officer/actors.

Tom Agos said once word got around about the project, a local salon donated hair and makeup services, a nearby restaurant provided food for the day of the shooting, and “it turned from a little idea into a gigantic project with more than 60 volunteers involved. It really took off and all of the donations were a huge blessing. The result was a very professionally constructed piece that cost zero dollars to produce.”

And with that came that realization that “this is just too good not to share. It’s too well done and involved too much of a huge community effort to keep it to ourselves. I wrote the script so that any school district could use it if they felt it fit into their program. Other schools may have the same problem we have with hires brought in after the annual training, or for a small school district just beginning to look at school safety, it might be something they could use to build a program.”

The video is not appropriate for a student or general audience, and Agos will vet all requests to ensure they come from school districts or law enforcement agencies. Qualifying entities will receive a secure link to download the video; just one week after its release, he had fielded more than 100 qualified requests.

A trailer for Attention Students and Staff can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IluudUhr1DA&feature=youtu.be. To request a copy of the video, contact Tom Agos at
safetyvideo@police.gurnee.il.us or call (847) 599-7080.