Community School honored Roanoke City Police Officer Travis Akins this year with the 2015 Local Hero Award. Officer Akins was instrumental in bringing Project Lifesaver to Roanoke, a free service for families that helps save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism, and other related conditions or disorders.
During his work on this project, Officer Akins saw a need for adults with cognitive disorders, such as autism or Down syndrome. He started working on such a program in 2013, and in November of 2014, Growth Through Opportunity officially launched at the Roanoke Police Department. These young men currently volunteer inside the police station learning a variety of skills, and in turn the police officers are able to interact with them in a non-emergency situation.
Our hero worked hard to find funding and insurance for a program like this. He connected with the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center to find job coaches. Tracy Morris, who nominated our hero, said that “by giving these young men and women a role within the police department, our officers will have the unique understanding and set of skills required” to work with this particular population. The GTO Cadets receive job skills, which can help them gain employment, but also an opportunity to be a part of the community in which they live.
For over a decade, Community School has recognized a local hero in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Our middle school students study the life of Dr. King, solicit nominations from the public, and then choose the honoree they feel best represents the characteristics of altruism, humanitarianism and social conscience.
At two ceremonies last Friday, Officer Akins reminded the audience that we all have choices to make in life and echoed the sentiment of Dr. King that “the time is always right to do what is right.”