Travis Fenderson, STEP Foundation
A police officer run summer camp providing financially challenged children with nutrition, exercise, mentorship and conversation around social issues within the community.
I used to be a classroom teacher and coach at a high school in a very unsafe part of the city. In one year I buried 7 students. A year later I found myself at a neighboring high school. A student told me he felt safer in my classroom than he did at home.
Soon after that, the same student told me he was tired of the police harassing him for no reason. At that point I told him that I was going to become a police officer so that I could explain why police do what they do.
Soon after becoming a police I was tasked with running a cadet/explorer program, in which youth were exposed to a career in law enforcement. After developing the program from 27 participants at a single location to several hundred participants at six locations throughout the city, I was limited in the areas I was allowed to service. The politics of those above me prohibited me from developing areas that had poor historical relationships with law enforcement. Ironically, the young man that lead me to a career in law enforcement lived and went to school within one of the areas I was prohibited to service. At that point I realized, I had to do more on my own. That being said, here I am.
Our organization was founded to provide opportunities to youth in underserved communities. Unsafe environments have the biggest influence on decisions, so we realize safety is most important. Many members of these communities end up in bad situations because of bad decision-making, which is due to a lack of education. The combination of safety and education is infectious in communities and will inevitably improve environments.