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Life as a Community Outreach Specialist


Photograph of Jane Bjornstad

When it comes to community outreach, our Phoenix Division is a place of firsts—the first Citizens’ Academy and Citizens’ Academy Board, the first Junior Special Agent Program on Indian land, the first FBI Teen Academy. We spoke with Jane Bjornstad, our community outreach coordinator there since 1997, about these and other initiatives and her memorable experiences.

Q: It sounds like you’re quite busy in Phoenix with your Citizens’ Academy. What can you tell us about it?

Jane: I can tell you that it’s very gratifying. The Citizens’ Academy concept was pioneered here back in 1993, and the first board started soon after to support the program. The academy really gives our community leaders a chance to see who we are up close and dispels a lot of myths about us. A side benefit is that it brings us together on a personal level—I’ve grown very close myself to several graduates. They not only become wonderful ambassadors for us in the community but also part of our FBI family.

Q: What kind of work do you do with kids?

Jane: Quite a bit, actually. Seven years ago, we adopted the Sacaton Middle School on the Gila River Indian Reservation and began a Jr. Special Agent or JSA program. I brought agents with me to talk to the kids about bullying, peer pressure, self esteem, gangs, Internet safety, and of course, the work of the FBI. The kids are also treated to an office tour, holiday party, and graduation. I really feel that the students are responding to the program. Several times on campus, one of our graduates has come running up and given me a hug! I’ve also hosted a JSA program at the Nevitt Elementary School for the past nine years. The school guidance counselor helps pick one of the five fifth grade classes for us to work with. I’ve been told that the teachers argue over who’s going to get the class each year! I also hosted the first FBI Teen Academy in 1997, and we graduated our ninth class this past June. It’s like a mini-one day Citizens’ Academy for teens aged 13 to 18. They meet our agents and learn all about our work. The program is so popular I have a waiting list to get in.

Q: Any memorable moments?

Jane: Plenty. One highlight was meeting and working with the executive director of St. Vincent de Paul through our Citizens’ Academy. He wanted to partner with us and asked for help feeding the homeless during the summer months. We recruited our alumni and fed the homeless at their dining halls twice a month in June, July, and August. It was something we all felt good about doing as a team—it brought us all closer together and was a chance to give back to our community. It was community outreach on two levels at once!

Links: Phoenix Community Outreach webpage