Middle School Career Fair Leads to Scholarship and a Well Chartered Future

Michael Utsumi, Funding & Programs Coordinator
December 3, 2019

In 2018, DPIE established the Edy Coleman Service Scholarship. The intent was to honor two graduating seniors in the Dublin Unified School District per year with a $2,500 scholarship each. One of the key elements of this honor is the emphasis on service to the community. The first receipient was Ms Bailey Morita (click here for the full article on Bailey) and the second recipient is Ms. Ava Moniz. This is her story.

Years ago, Ava and her mother were watching the television program “Criminal Minds.” Ava was instantly intrigued and it led to an unexpected precursor.  By the time she reached Dublin High School, she became aware of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Explorer program.  It was a valid opportunity to gain exposure to the criminal justice system that also required a firm time and academic commitment.  She received her scholarship at the Senior Awards event and concluded her high school career with a Cumulative Weighted FPA of 3.62. Now, as a first-year student at Las Positas, we sat down with Ms. Moniz to gain insights into her journey and how she discovered her career path. 

DPIE: What triggered your interest in pursuing a possible career in criminal justice?

Moniz: “. When I was in eighth grade the Career Fair was coming up at Wells Middle School and I remember thinking about what career presentations I wanted to choose to see. Because of the shows I just started watching, I decided to sign up for all the Criminal Justice related careers such as CHP, FBI, and other police agencies that School. Before eighth grade was over, I remember wanting to explorer different opportunities offered with our local police agencies. I went on the City of Dublin's website under 'Dublin Police Services' and saw the department offered a week-long summer youth police academy.

I emailed the Deputy in charge, Deputy Blaylock, in order to get involved with the program; I then filled out an application and got a spot in the academy. During that week, Deputy Blaylock and Deputy Klingenberg took us on field trips and taught us the different aspects in policing. I fell in love with it, wanted to do more and I was later introduced to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office Explorer Program which was for young adult volunteers ages 14- 21 years old who volunteer and explore different careers in Law Enforcement. At this point I was excited to start the next chapter in my life - starting high school and being involved in the Explorer Program.” 

DPIE: You’ve always been a pioneer – including your entry into the Explorer program.  Express your feelings about joining a program that was predominantly male.

Moniz: “Ever since I got involved in the Explorer Program, I have gotten to experience and learn so much about many different aspects of policing at the Sheriff's Office. When I first joined the program, I met the two Deputies in charge, Deputy Dennington and Deputy Barnes. They told me when the first meeting was, when to attend, and a little more on what the program was about. The first meeting I attended there were four guys and I was the only girl. I have to admit, that was a little intimidating being I was so shy. The next few meetings, another girl stayed for about a year then ended up moving to Texas, but we were always the only two females that showed up or volunteered. I learned that this career choice is predominately male and I accepted it because I absolutely loved volunteering with the Sheriff's Office.

Even though for the next two years I was practically the only female with this Explorer Post, Deputy Barnes and Deputy Dennington, mentored me and taught me to be confident when I was volunteering with them. They always pushed me to be my best and protected me in making sure that I was treated with respect at all times which I very much appreciated; I felt more comfortable volunteering in this field and not feeling out of place. With the help of many deputies at Alameda County Sheriff's Office and my Krav Maga (defensive fighting taught to military and Law Enforcement) coach, Katie Hurd, at Combat Sports Academy my confidence was built. I was no longer intimidated by anyone.” 

DPIE: You are currently balancing a full load of courses and continuing your employment with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.  How does this feel like the next logical step after high school?

Moniz: “After high school each individual decides to go his or her own way, whether you decide to go away to school, stay local, or take some time off from school. But it is really the point in your life that you need to think about what is best for yourself. Being that I was involved with the Sheriff's Office I was offered a job right out of high school- a Sheriff's Service Cadet with Alameda County. This was a job I was looking forward to having ever since I was about 15, waiting to turn 18 in order to apply. The logical step for me was to stay local and attend community college in order to work as a Cadet. Being that one of the requirements is enrolling in at least 9 units and maintain a 2.0 GPA.

After high school, you learn that you are fully responsible for yourself and making your own decisions, not only for your classes or jobs but in your life. You gain individual freedom and have to be sort of selfish in thinking what is going to be the best for you. Studying as a full-time student and working a serious part-time job has been much of a learning experience in managing time and choices. Even though I have had a really busy schedule working, training, and studying full time, I have really enjoyed every minute of it. I am thankful to be given the opportunity to attend school and work such an amazing job where I get to enhance my learning and experience so much, it has made everything completely worth it.”

DPIE: As one who embraces public service, how would you encourage your peers to become more involved with their communities?

Moniz: “Because of the Explorer Program, I graduated Dublin High school with over 500 community service hours. I have embraced community service since I volunteered my first event with Alameda County Sheriff's Office. My first event was "Urban Shield" which was a competition training for all different specialized units within police agencies (hosted by Alameda County Sheriff's Office) to learn how to respond to different scenarios based on acts of terrorism that have already happened. I acted as a role player and any extra assistance to deputies if they needed such supplies, etc. From then on, I was volunteering every weekend at every single community event and any event that the Sheriff's Office needed explorers at. At these events I learned so much and got to work a lot with the community - one of my favorite events I volunteered at was the "Santa Rita Jail Youth Education Program" which was held at the jail for youths that got in trouble with the their school or had their first contact with Law Enforcement under 18 years old. At this program I worked with Captain Carroll and Deputy McGee in helping to given presentations, assist on the jail tour and be a role model as an Explorer to mentor the kids in making right decisions.

Because of my dedication to the program Captain Carroll gave me the '2017 Star Community Service Award' on behalf of the Sheriff's Office, the Explorer program, and the Jail program which really positively impacted my life; ever since then I learned how important my role was in the community and for those around me. Edy Coleman was known for her selfless dedication to serving the community and she truly believed that there were much more than grades that got you to go places in life. There are many more important and impactful lessons to be learned outside of a classroom when you work and learn with people in your community. I encourage all my peers to be involved with the community in some type of way or form because it opens your eyes to a diversity of perspectives and really makes you appreciate all the little things in life. Due to the bad stigmas about local police officers, I especially encourage anyone to volunteer their time to do the Citizen's academy with Dublin Police Services (https://www.dublin.ca.gov/670/Citizens-Academy) to have an insight on community policing with the Sheriff's Office. As the American Activist, Dorothy Height, once said, "Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It's important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It's the way in which we ourselves grow and develop."

We would like to thank Ms Ava Moniz for sharing her vision as she embarks on the next steps to pursuing her chosen field. “Criminal minds” should be aware that this Dublin High School graduate is cultivating her knowledge and skills. Each spring, the Dublin Partners in Education supports the eighth-grade career fair at our middle schools. For the first time, this will occur with students at Cottonwood Creek K-8 School in 2020.