Bern Collum always knew he wanted to go into law enforcement; he just took a little while to get there.
"I guess you could call me a late bloomer, but I always knew I was destined to be a police officer," said Bern.
This inner calling, combined with his love of mentoring young people, eventually led him to take a position as a police officer with the Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD) – a position he's held for the last 18 years.
A Turning Point
Before embarking on his career in law enforcement, Bern was an operations manager for a manufacturing representative company for serveral years, but the role did not fufill him. Bern then started and owned a successful construction company.
"I needed to talk and interact with people. Working in manufacturing was mundane and often isolating," said Bern.
His construction business went well for five years, but the events of Sept. 11, 2001, proved to be a turning point.
"The construction industry came to a halt," said Bern. "So, I decided to follow my childhood aspirations and enter the police academy."
Returning to His Roots
As the father of two school-aged children (at the time) who attended class in another district, Bern recognized the need for more school safety measures and wanted to be part of the solution. He also knew from being a Little League baseball and football coach how much he enjoyed working with kids. So, after graduating from the police academy, he decided to pursue a position in a school district and was offered a job at SBISD.
Taking a job at SBISD meant Bern would be returning to his roots. He grew up in Memorial and graduated from Westchester High School. Familiar with the local area, he looked forward to giving back to the community that shaped his life in hopes of making a difference.
A Fatherly Figure
Bern's first assignment in SBISD was as a patrol officer at Spring Woods High School. Throughout the five years he was stationed at Spring Wood, Bern said he learned a lot and recognized there was potential for him to influence students' lives positively.
"I wanted students to understand that there are always going to be consequences in life both good and bad, a lesson that's better to learn earlier rather than later," said Bern. "Some of these kids didn't have fathers figures, so I knew I could step in and play that role for them."
From Spring Woods, Bern continued to serve in various capacities, including in traffic flow, at Memorial High School as a patrol officer, and then traveled the entire district, visiting elementary, middle, and high schools throughout community. In this capacity, he is able to forge connections across all age groups, something he thoroughly enjoyed.
A Commitment to His Community
Growing up in SBISD, Bern knew it was a good school district. He knew it had strong values and was committed to helping students succeed. Bern's tenure in SBISD has only strengthened his opinion.
"It's a good community with good schools, and strong relationships exist between parents, students, and educators," said Bern. "The tight-knit community fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie, almost like a small town."
As he makes his 45-minute daily commute from his horse ranch in Hempstead to SBISD, it gives him plenty of time to reflect on his years of service and how he’s influenced students’ lives. Bern says he's grateful for the opportunity to be woven into the fabric of SBISD and sees himself and his fellow SBISD police officers as an integral part of students' lives, playing not only a role in keeping them safe but helping them thrive.
Throughout the years, Bern has had encounters with SBISD graduates who were headed down the wrong path at one point or another. But thanks to Bern's influence and positive encouragement, they were able to turn their lives around.
"It's fulfilling to see young people grow into mature, responsible adults, especially after avoiding potential pitfalls earlier in life. It's by far the most rewarding part of my job," said Bern. "I feel like I have made a difference in the lives of students, been a part of their nurturing and growth into successful adults."
While interacting with SBISD students, Bern delivers a simple but effective message: "Go to school, get a good education, and don't break the rules." He believes that if students follow that advice, they can achieve anything they want in life.
Guided by a Moral Compass
In all that he does at SBISD, Bern reinforces the SBISD Core Value of the "Moral Compass," which states strong character, ethics, and integrity guide the entire district.
Every member of the SBISD family – educators, students, parents, support staff, and community members – is expected to take personal responsibility for their actions, treat others with kindness and mutual respect, and cultivate trust among each other.
"Working together as a community, we can all provide the support and motivation to help students of this and future generations reach their highest potential. I'm proud to have even a small role in that journey," said Bern.
The Spring Branch ISD Police Department has some of the finest men and women in blue, serving and protecting our schools and community every single day. They're leaders, peacekeepers, and role models to our children. So if you're someone who values integrity, honor, and a strong sense of duty, we want YOU. Our police department is looking for individuals who share our values and are committed to keeping our schools and neighborhoods safe.
Click here to learn more about becoming a part of the team that makes a real difference in the world.