Fifth-Graders at Helen Arnold CLC Ride, Learn

Highway Patrol on Special APS Mission
Posted on 05/16/2019
Image of Highway Patrol Visit to Helen Arnold CLC(David Nethers for TV)

Dozens of law enforcement officers, including state troopers from as far away as Columbus, an elite swat team and members of the Ohio Special Investigative Unit, converged on Akron on Wednesday focused on fifth-grade students from Helen Arnold Community Learning Center.

Their mission was not to crack down on what the kids are doing wrong but to help point them in a direction to do something positive with their lives.

Troopers escorted about 30 students in cruisers from the school to the Akron Highway Patrol Post.

Lt. Antonio Matos, commander of the post, has spent much of the past five years going to the school to help mentor students and encourage them with a message that, regardless of their circumstances, they can be successful in life.

On Wednesday, he helped bring together a diverse group of troopers, police officers, deputies and others, many of whom have come from similar or even more challenging backgrounds than the students might ever face.

They included Milan Milosevic, a Highway Patrol Pilot whose family fled poverty and oppression in Yugoslavia and found their way to the United States where he arrived not even being able to speak English.

"From me having nothing, being hungry, cold, afraid going to school, being picked on, beat up, money stolen, I'm here to tell you, I've been in your shoes. I know what it's like, and if I can do something positive I know all of you guys can also," Milosevic told the students.

Trooper Bouthan Sangsiphanh spent several years in refugee camps in Thailand after fleeing communist Laos, where at the age of seven he witnessed a soldier kick a man in the head whose hands were bound.

"Ever since i saw that I always wanted to be a police officer or soldier where I can help people out and where I can make a difference in peoples' lives instead of punishing people -- that's kind of how my law enforcement career got started."

Also on hand for the event was Col. Rick Fambro, the new Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent.

Fambro rose to the Highway Patrol's highest position after growing up in a single-parent home in inner city Columbus, becoming the Patrol's first African American Superintendent.

"There's nothing more important -- I mean I have a lot of things on my plate, but when we are talking about little kids, its an opportunity to invest in my future," said Fambro.

"For me, I had people like that in my life who were positive, who were focused on me not being a part of the statistics that we so often see in the inner cities," he added.

Lt. Matos hoped, by visiting with the troopers and others, the students could see themselves, as if looking in a mirror, while building a lasting bond between law enforcement and the kids.

"There is so much hope for them out there for them not to give up on that hope and no matter what they want to do regardless of their circumstances, their past, their dreams that they would decide today that they are going to be amazing people," said Matos.

"If we messed up everything today, if nothing went right or for a trooper that goes through a shift and nothing went right, if we get one thing right and that's to love people, then we did what we needed to do and the rest will take care of itself," said Matos.

While sharing lunch with the students and taking them on a guided tour of the post and the various vehicles used by troopers, those officers who were there hoped to also create a bond that they hope the students will remember for the rest of their lives.

"This may not resonate today with the kids, but they will enjoy it and it will be fun. But five, six, seven, ten years from now, who knows what impression this will have, what type of an effect today's event will have on them," said Fambro. Watch a video of the visit here >>.

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(Following is a letter from Sara Klopfenstein, fifth-grade teacher at Helen Arnold CLC, regarding this class field trip.)

Dear APS Community:

I wanted to send you the awesome experience that I organized with the Ohio State Patrol.

Highway Patrol Lieutenant Tony Matos contacted me several years ago about helping our students at Helen Arnold CLC in any way he could offer. So, we began a friendship that allowed him to come to speak with my students and begin mentoring them and becoming a positive roll model in their lives.

Through hard work and dedication, we came up with a field trip for my fifth-graders. Lt. Matos was able to get state troopers from all of Ohio, and we created an awesome program for my students.

This is the first time this has been accomplished. Needless to say, my kids fell in love with the experience as well as the troopers. They have formed unforgettable relationships. This even has spiraled now to troopers coming in on a regular basis to visit with the students. Other grade levels at our school have also taken an interest in having the troopers visit their classrooms. This is something we will continue.

Check out the group photo I have included!

Best Regards

Sara Klopfenstein
Fifth-Grade Teacher
Helen Arnold CLC

Image of Helen Arnold CLC and Highway Patrol
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