SYRACUSE -- Michael Levi's accomplishment of getting straight A's his last term as a seventh-grader does not compare to the lunch he shared with Syracuse Police Officer Stan Penrod.
Michael, 12, who is the son of Natalie and Joe Levi, has Asperger's syndrome. Penrod had been the city's DARE officer for the past seven years. On Monday, the two met at Iceberg Drive Inn for a lunch, complete with a shake.
"(The shake) is as big as my head," Michael said.
Michael's first encounter with Penrod was when he was a second-grader at Syracuse Elementary School, said Natalie Levi.
"Michael has social anxieties and had had (enough of) second grade," she said. "He bolted out of the school (one day) and took off running. Several officers were chasing him, and finally they cornered him."
Michael turned around to face Penrod, who said, "Michael, don't you know me?"
From then on, when Michael was struggling at school, Penrod was there to help, even when Michael transferred to Wasatch Elementary in Clearfield to attend the learning center so he could develop improved social skills.
"Officer Penrod is a good man," Natalie Levi said. "He would drop in on Michael even up there (at Wasatch) and check in on him."
Michael, who was later mainstreamed into regular education classes in seventh grade, walked to Syracuse Junior High almost every day. But on his way to school, he would stop and talk to his favorite police officer.
At the last midterm, Michael showed Penrod his grades. At that time, he had A's in five of the seven subjects, the others being an A minus and a B.
"I told him, 'Dude, there was no reason you can't get straight A's. Dude, if you get straight A's, it's worthy of a shake, your choice,' " Penrod said.
When the final grades were posted, Michael "barreled into the office at Mach 10 with his report card," Penrod said.
Michael had pulled it off.
"It wasn't that hard," Michael said. "I just had to finish some assignments and finish a test."
Penrod then upgraded the offer from a shake to a lunch, saying, "This is worthy of the biggest hamburger, the greasiest fries and the most unhealthy, heart-stopping shake."
Michael said leaving the learning center and attending regular classes was difficult at first because many of his classmates did not understand Asperger's syndrome. He has a difficult time sitting still and controlling his emotions.
"I get stressed out," Michael said. "Anger is hard. So is sadness. And I get really excited. Asperger's can be a gift and a curse."
Knowing he could talk to Penrod helped ease that transition into seventh grade.
"Michael is a good kid," said Penrod, who has now been assigned to be a patrol officer, leaving the DARE program.
During the past seven years, Penrod has been at all four elementary schools in Syracuse, as well as the Syracuse Arts Academy, a charter school. He worked specifically with sixth-graders but found time to interact with as many students as possible.
Michael is not the only student Penrod has helped get through rough times, said Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle.
"He connects well with the kids and has high expectations of them," she said. "The kids mean everything to him."
Michael knows when he starts eighth grade, he may not see his favorite officer as often as he did this past year.
"I will get to see him a couple of times, probably at the intersection in his squad car."