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West Orange Times & Observer Saturday, May 11, 2019 2 weeks ago

West Orange High deputy retires after 31-year career

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John Dickson recently retired following a 31-year law enforcement career – 15 of which he spent serving West Orange High School.
by: Gabby Baquero News Editor

Three decades of service with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has left John Dickson with strong relationships he expects will last a lifetime — many with whom are not even half his age.

Hired by OCSO in 1988, Dickson officially retired after 15 years of protecting and serving the West Orange High School community as one of the school’s two school-resource deputies.

The Clermont resident, who described his role as an SRD as being ‘the sheriff of a mini-city,’ began his career with OCSO in traffic patrol before he served on the Marine Patrol Unit for six years. 

West Orange High School Resource Deputy John Dickson is the longest tenured School Resource Officer at an Orange County school.

He later took on a role teaching Drug Abuse Resistance Education at three Orange County elementary schools and went on to become a school-resource deputy at West Orange.

At first, the position interested him because he grew curious to learn what high school was like in modern-day society, particularly as his own kids were getting older and soon would reach high-school age, he said. But he stayed because he enjoyed the opportunity to act as a positive role model for the students and both mentor and develop bonds with the youth.

“I do it for the love of the kids,” Dickson said. “I’ve made relationships with these kids that I think is going to last a lifetime, and that’s just a neat feeling to be able to reach out and touch people that way. It was the best job I could ever ask for.”

Of course, the job did come with it own set of challenges and the fear of what now plagues many schools around the country: gun violence.

“You’ve always got to worry about the worst-case scenario, like a school shooting,” Dickson said. “And I was there when we had the school shooting at West Orange almost 10 years ago. It was a very humbling — but also very scary — experience. It’s a school-resource officer’s worst nightmare, but we were all able to pull through it.”

Dickson advised West Orange High students who may be struggling to pull through their classes or circumstances to stay true to themselves and reach out to their school-resource officers if they have any issues or just need someone to talk to. 

As for Dickson, now that his career in law enforcement is over, he hopes to try something completely different and pursue a career with JetBlue Airways. He starts training May 22 as a flight attendant, he said.

“I’m just totally going to reinvent myself,” he said. “I accepted a job with JetBlue Airways, and I am slated to become a flight attendant. So my wife and I, she’s a school teacher, we’re empty-nesters now, and she can retire in three years. One of the things we’ve always wanted to do is go off and travel, and a perk of working for JetBlue is that you and your spouse can travel for free. So we wanted to take advantage of that, and there’s a whole world out there we want to see.”

Gabby is the news editor for the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer newspapers. Have a story tip? Contact her at (352) 448-5856 or at [email protected]....

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