By Su Ann Bird

AMERICUS – Julie Soto of Oglethorpe was recently awarded a Lou Crouch Law Enforcement Scholarship from the South Georgia Technical College Foundation upon graduating from South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy Grades 21-02. Soto received her Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification from the South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy. She also received the Academic Achievement Award for the highest academic average in her class.

“I’ve always dreamed of helping my country and giving back and being the change in my community. This scholarship gives me so many opportunities. It will help me become a better officer and it will benefit my family by allowing me to learn more about law enforcement. I am very grateful to Lou Crouch, the SGTC Foundation, and South Georgia Technical College for this opportunity, ”said Soto.

Lou Crouch of Bryon donated his first South Georgia Technical College scholarship in January 2013 to support students enrolling at South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy, and with Soto, Crouch has provided scholarships to 29 students to date.

The President of South Georgia Technical College, Dr. John Watford, congratulated Soto on receiving the Lou Crouch Fellowship and wished her all the best in her career as a POST certified civil servant. “I am very proud of you, and I am proud of Lou Crouch and the others who have provided individual grants to the SGTC Law Enforcement Academy,” said President Watford.

Soto is 21 years old and shared that she had to overcome many difficulties to get to this point in her life. “I became a teenage mom and wife during high school. But I didn’t let that stop me. I graduated from high school and was the first in my family to graduate. I enrolled at South Georgia Tech with a newborn baby and earned an associate degree in criminal justice, ”said Soto, who added that her interest in law enforcement grew during her undergraduate studies.

“I decided to become a police officer. I wanted to give back to my community by making them feel safe. I also want to work to help people understand the law and build trust and respect with the police, ”said Soto. With the support of her husband, she quit her job in construction and enrolled in the Law Enforcement Academy at South Georgia Tech. Her husband took a part-time job to support her and her family so that she could achieve her dream.

“I’m really blessed to join the Law Enforcement Academy and come this far,” added Soto. “Even if I have overcome many obstacles, there will be more to come. According to statistics, only 12.8% of police officers in 2019 are female, and even a smaller group of these female officers are Hispanic Americans. With this scholarship, I can continue my education and work to encourage other women or even minorities to join law enforcement and also advance to leadership positions. Women are needed in law enforcement. You have a high degree of communication skills, have a calming effect on men and are classified as trustworthy, which can be helpful in many situations. “

Soto believes that more women and minorities in law enforcement would make a dramatic change in our society and enable the public to see that we are diverse and that we work for one thing, protection and service.

SGTC Foundation Executive Director Su Ann Bird thanked Lou Crouch for his contribution to helping students like Soto and others realize their dream of entry into law enforcement. “This scholarship is an enormous help to the young men and women who are training to be civil servants and working as law enforcement officers here in Georgia. This scholarship not only helps our students but makes the communities safer. We appreciate Lou Crouch’s dedication and financial support to this program and our students, ”said Bird.

For more information about donating or establishing a foundation scholarship at South Georgia Technical College, contact Su Ann Bird, Executive Director of the SGTC Foundation at 229.931.2110 or sbird@southgatech.edu. Contributions can also be made to the SGTC Foundation, PO Box 6102, Americus, GA.

South Georgia Tech is one of five Georgia technical colleges licensing new law enforcement officers to receive their basic law enforcement training while earning college credits. The cadets go through 18 weeks and over 700 hours of intensive training, mentally and physically.

LEA graduates receive their Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification from South Georgia Technical College, as well as a technical credit certificate that can be used towards a diploma or associate degree in criminal justice.

For more information about the Law Enforcement Academy, contact the Law Enforcement Academy office at 229.931.2716 or SGTC Law Enforcement Academy Director Brett Murray at 229.931.2756 or bmurray@southgatech.edu.