SOAR program helps Burke County deputies get degrees

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 7:15 PM EDT
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WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Higher education, retention, and better training. They’re all perks of the SOAR program at the Burke County Sheriff’s Office.

The program launched in 2019, helping employees get their degrees. Since then, they’ve seen nearly 20 new graduates. It’s benefiting the department as a whole.

Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams says that this program has been a game-changer over the past few years because it allows his deputies to better serve the community.

“We did this because we believe that if we’re going to solve any of society’s ills, the only way to do it is through education,” he said.

In May of 2019, the BCSO partnered with Faulkner University to create the SOAR program.

It gives public safety employees and residents of Burke County the chance to get a college degree at a reduced cost.

“It’s a win-win for our community,” he said.

Since the program started, 33 percent of the agency has a college degree.

“It’s huge for an agency this size,” said Williams.

Williams says this program allows his deputies to be better trained, more proactive, and connect with their community. It makes them more competitive too.

“Higher education allows us an opportunity to recruit, train, hire, and retain better-qualified officers,” he said.

Sgt. Anthony Bannerman, community relations division said: “It makes you a better officer instead of the old cut and dry way. It will make you think outside of the box.”

Deputies say it sets them up for better opportunities in the future.

Sgt. Nathan Jones, training division said: “Even going through the program has helped me at my job. I’m in the training division, and I’ve implemented some of the things that I have learned and the knowledge that I’ve gained from my classes into some of the training programs that we deliver to our deputies on a monthly basis.”

Williams says it’s helping make his agency and the community--the best in the area.

“We are changing the world one person at a time,” he said.

The graduates are expected to graduate on May 6 in Alabama. Moving forward, the sheriff says they’re pushing to eventually start offering to pay their employees to get more advanced degrees.

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