Gibbs High School Resource Officer Grace Albritton was honored in Washington, D.C. | Photo courtesy of Pinellas County Schools
BY MONROE ROARK, The Gabber
ST. PETERSBURG — Grace Albritton spends a large part of her job helping teenagers who are much like she was at their age. She never expected national recognition for it.
But that is exactly what she got.
The office of U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland presented Albritton June 5 with the sixth annual Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing. Garland personally presented the award to several law enforcement officers nationwide.
“For me, it’s unreal,” said Albritton. “It’s such a huge honor. This is something that I did not expect any awards or recognition for.”
Unique Way to Help Students
Albritton is an officer with the St. Petersburg Police Department and one of the school resource officers at Gibbs High School, where she was once a student. She has drawn on her high school experience to create an innovative approach to her work.
One of her most notable accomplishments is the creation of the Grab N Go Boutique. She transformed a classroom into a shop that provides clothing, school supplies, and hygiene items for students with limited resources.
The Grab N Go Boutique began several years ago as a table with a handful of new and gently used items. Albritton recalled seeing a student who was homeless picking out an item excitedly because he had never gotten anything new.
Remembering what it was like to be a young person who often went without the things she needed, the young police officer decided then and there to make the Grab N Go Boutique much bigger.
“I was one of those students,” she said of her high school years, which included times when she came to school without having access to basic things like deodorant.
“I don’t want anybody to come to school embarrassed and have their head low,” she said.
Boutique grows, needs more space
So she went to work. Her efforts produced an increase in donations and an expansion of resources. The boutique soon took up a large portion of the teacher’s lounge, but eventually, that wasn’t enough space.
Albritton asked Gibbs principal Barry Brown if an entire room could be devoted to this initiative. He said yes, and the boutique continued to grow.
While focusing on her primary responsibility at Gibbs — the safety of everyone at the school — she has also pitched in to help with several clubs, including the school’s fishing club, the Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) club, and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).
Last year, Albritton was honored locally with the Unsung Hero Award, sponsored by the Tampa Bay nonprofit Hands Across the Bay.
She said she didn’t seek publicity for the boutique because she did not want children to feel self-conscious. But the attention has had some benefits.
“It was a blessing because more people heard about the store, and more people started volunteering their time,” she said.
When she received local recognition, Brown said she was an “unsung hero” on the campus.
“I think the Grab N Go is just one of many phases of her support for our students aside from providing a safe environment.”