Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, Junior Achievement (JA) served more than 212,000 classes to 4.8 million students. The impact of financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship in schools would not be possible without the help of those who share the same goals as Junior Achievement—to help youth own their own economic success. Without the help of the 243,756 volunteers this past school year, Junior Achievement’s mission would not be achievable. One invaluable group of volunteers are the men and women in local police departments across the country. This is the story of one.
Meet Commander Louis Tovar, not only a board member for JA of Arizona as well as a Commander of the Phoenix Police Department but an avid volunteer and JA advocate. Throughout his time involved with JA, he has seen and influenced the impact of JA curriculum in his own community.
His desire to positively impact his community spread throughout the Phoenix Police Department when one year, as a Patrol Commander, he invited his officers to volunteer alongside him in an inner-city elementary school. “They understand that these opportunities are now part of “police work” in order to improve the legitimacy of who we are as officers with the community!” said Tovar. He has found that the high engagement of the students was due in part to the uniformed officers teaching the lessons.
Pairing Phoenix’s local police department with students has been a way for Tovar and his colleagues to proactively engage within their community in order to “de-mystify” who they are. It is the idea of being prudent for one’s future that Tovar believes the JA lessons taught impact the students because it “influences them (students) early of the importance of being productive and independent citizens who will contribute to a society.”
What drives a department to go above and beyond? Commander Tovar stated how he, “…experienced how impactful it is to have our community’s youth positively exposed in an unconventional way with police officers.” Tovar stated, “I began volunteering in the classroom first, then gravitated toward encouraging others in the department to join me wherever I was assigned.”
Recently, Tovar and other police volunteers organized assistance in the JA You’re Hired event, which aims to promote career readiness with a two-section lesson plan-- a preparatory classroom curriculum and the JA You’re Hired Challenge. Phoenix officers made themselves available to answer student’s questions about careers in law enforcement.
When it comes to volunteer work in Phoenix one thing is for certain—the Phoenix Police Department is ready and excited to impact their community.