MONTGOMERY COUNTY – Montgomery County’s first class of Growth Through Opportunity cadets graduated from the program Thursday morning.
Dante Allen-Toomer, Erica Bookout and Carrie Mollette were honored in a ceremony attended by members of the community and local law enforcement.
“The passion of these two young ladies and young man touches me,” said Christiansburg Police Chief Mark Sisson during the ceremony.
The cadets spent 16 weeks volunteering at law enforcement offices throughout the county. There, they completed administrative tasks like sorting old uniforms and shredding papers. They also learned about balancing budgets, writing resumes and job interview tips. At the end of the day, the cadets would participate in physical training.
Nora Tucker, a rehabilitative services counselor from the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services, said she and a group of three other counselors will assist the cadets in finding a job now that they are GTO graduates.
Guest speaker Garrett Broomfield gave advice to the cadets as they move forward in life.
“You, like myself, have struggles and obstacles to overcome,” Broomfield said. “But your biggest competition will always be with yourself, and it should always be with yourself.”
Broomfield, who has cerebral palsy, is a motivational speaker. He advised the cadets’ parents to step back so their children can become more independent.
Roanoke police officer Travis Akins helped start the GTO program a couple years ago in Roanoke, and oversaw the Montgomery County program. He said the goal of GTO is to find people with unique challenges and connect them with local law enforcement.
At the end of the ceremony, Akins reminded the cadets that local law enforcement would be looking out for them in the future.
“This is just the beginning,” Akins said. “We’ve got your back as you move forward.”
— Anaika Miller