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Jaquez Willis is on a mission to earn his High School Diploma


Clarksville Police Department - CPDClarksville, TN – Jaquez Willis is on a mission. His determination to earn his high school diploma is so great that he walks seven miles from his home near Northwest High School in Clarksville, Tennessee to the Continuing Education Center on Greenwood Avenue where he is enrolled in Adult Education.

Then he walks seven miles home. Day after day, his goal gets a little closer and the hope in his heart grows a little bigger.

Jaquez Willis receives a new bicycle at the New Providence Community Policing Center

Jaquez Willis receives a new bicycle at the New Providence Community Policing Center

The story of Jaquez Willis is all too common. Frustrated with the bureaucracy and environment of his local school, he dropped out at age sixteen. Jaquez soon discovered, however, that he could never reach his ultimate dream of serving his country in the military without that diploma.

As he watched friend after friend enter a gang, turn to drugs, or die from street violence, Jaquez Willis promised himself and his mother that he would not fall victim to that environment.

He moved to Clarksville to be with his father’s side of the family and to get away from a failed community in Georgia with all too many bad influences.

Perhaps it was karma that led Jaquez to interrupt his long walk by stopping at the New Providence Community Policing Center for a short rest and a drink of water. He struck up a conversation with Ray Colon, a retired Clarksville police officer and an office manager at the Center.

It would be hard to find anyone who understands and identifies more with Jaquez than this retired officer. Ray Colon grew up in Haiti and walked many miles to school each day before coming to the United States, where he learned English over the telephone from his sister, earned his citizenship, and served twenty-two years in the United States Army before joining the Clarksville Police Department.

Sergeant Johnny Ferguson, Officer Jeff Derico, and Goodwill Case Employment Manager Gina Moore overheard Jaquez explaining his route and his ultimate goal to Mr. Colon. They were touched by the young man’s cheerful attitude and quiet determination. They also knew a way that the Center could help.

Jaquez Willis hugs CPD Officer Jeff Derico after receiving his bicycle.

Jaquez Willis hugs CPD Officer Jeff Derico after receiving his bicycle.

The New Providence Community Policing Center was opened a few years ago through a federal grant that allowed the City of Clarksville, in partnership with numerous local organizations, to offer everything from job counseling to drug treatment to educational assistance to the local community. When the grant ended a few months ago, the City of Clarksville teamed with Goodwill Industries to fund the Center for another year.

The Clarksville Police Department officers assigned to the Center took the program much further than what was originally intended. One of the extra events they organized was a bicycle safety rodeo with a special surprise.

Thanks to generous donations from Wal-Mart, Bikers Who Care, private citizens, and the police officers themselves, every child who participated in the rodeo received a brand new bicycle. The community was so generous, in fact, that there were more bicycles than participants. The decision about what to do with one of those bikes was unanimous.

Adult Literacy Council Executive Director Velma Jo Williams recently gave Jaquez a ride from his studies back to the New Providence Community Policing Center without telling him why. When the puzzled young man went inside he was greeted by C.P.D. Sergeant Johnny Ferguson, Officer Jeff Derico, Ms. Moore, Ray Colon, and a brand new bicycle. The staff also provided him with riding gloves and a safety helmet.

Happy tears in his eyes, Jaquez Willis said, “No one has ever given me anything like this before!”

“It’s well-deserved for him to get this bike because he is trying to better himself and get an education so that he can serve his country in the United States Army,” stated Officer Derico.

Ms. Williams added, “When I met Jaquez, I felt that he had favor on his life. He is making strides.”

If you see a determined young man pedaling down Greenwood Avenue on a brand new bicycle, give him a friendly wave, but don’t slow him down. Jaquez Willis is on a mission.

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