UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
Life as a Community Outreach Specialist
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
Links: Phoenix Community Outreach webpage