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Giving Back: Growing Leaders Within Your Community

Sammy grew up in Portland, Oregon, under challenging circumstances with an unsure future. As he grew older, however, The Salvation Army was able to help him hone his leadership skills and take on challenges within his community. Now a police cadet for the Portland Police Department, Sammy leads kids from the same neighborhood at the same Salvation Army, giving back the same love and spiritual guidance shared with him as a child.

Read the transcript of the video here: 

Sammy: I remember waking up around two in the morning. And my dad, you know, with a loud tone of voice trying to talk to my mom through the bathroom door. I remember asking, you know, “What’s going on?”  

“You know, it’s okay, don’t worry, just go back to bed.”

And I tried that for a couple hours until the police came to the door and talked to my dad, and at the end of the conversation, you know, told me to take a bag of clothes, and he had to leave.

This whole block was just out in front, just watching what was going on. 

Growing up as a kid, especially through the separation, there was a lot of stress going on between going back and forth between parents and a lot of fighting going on. For a while, I was ahead of the kids, and they looked to me for answers, and sometimes I didn’t have any. But, I did know that when Sunday came around, you know, we had people to talk to about it. When it came to church, I didn’t have to do it on my own. I had people behind me supporting me.

Lieutenant Laura Fyn: One thing that’s very unique about our corps here is that there are just countless individuals who are looking to get involved in the lives of youth. They were able to love him through some of the hardest times of his life. They were there for him. Now, Sammy is not just a little kid growing up in the corps. He’s a young man, and he is someone that our kids look up to. He’s a natural-born leader, and we are just so thrilled to be a small part of his story as he continues to grow in his leadership.

Sammy: If there’s a kid going through what I’m going through, you know, I want to, I want to be in there. I want to be there to support him the whole way. It won’t go away overnight, but with a good support system, with a good heart, you’ll definitely come out stronger from it. Things that I’ve been through in my life are just lessons for me to be a teacher to somebody else in the future.

Growing up, there’d be a lot of, you know, calls to be made to the police just to make sure that we were okay. One officer that really stuck out to me was Officer Romero. I’d see him on the way home from school, and he’d stop and say, “How’s it going?” It’s the first time I’ve ever had that, someone checking up on me and making sure that I’m okay. He doesn’t even know who I am, really. And so, I’ve always wanted to do something in law enforcement, and that’s why I decided I’m going to pursue it. So, just a couple years ago, I applied to the Portland police cadet program, and I was accepted out of many. 

Officer Larsen: Our cadet program is centered around sixteen to twenty-one-year-olds. Basically, it’s an introduction to police work. Police work has changed a lot in the last few years. A lot of it is community-oriented. Our actual title in Portland is community police officer. Having that open mind is one of the things that Sammy brings well to our scenarios. The fact that he takes feedback well is another good thing, too.

Sammy: I just want to do my best to give back to my community that I grew up in. That’s my job, is to take care of the community. This community has does so much for me. It’s taught me so much. The officers have just been such a great inspiration to me. I want to work in Portland until the day I can’t work anymore.

The fight’s never over. Whether it’s something like mine or something completely different, I know that my God’s behind my back the whole time. And that when there isn’t someone to talk to, there is someone to talk to, and that’s him. Going to The Salvation Army every Sunday at the Portland Tabernacle, you know, that was my escape. And every Sunday, Wednesdays, and Fridays, My dad started coming to church. And that was like me going in an arcade, you know. That just put a big smile on my face. But if I just have one thing to say to somebody who’s going through the same thing as me, just don’t give up. Don’t stop fighting. Keep your head up, and keep believing in God because, in the end, it will pay off.


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