Jana Busby has been a volunteer with the Decatur Police Department for the past 4 years, and she has worked hard to change the lives of Decatur youth. The Police Department sponsors the Special Olympics and the ACES program. Both programs help disadvantaged youth.
The Alternative Choices Education Systems (ACES) Program is a summer program, which is designed to give children in Decatur’s low-income areas a choice to avoid becoming involved with drugs and violence. This program builds self-esteem, teaches teamwork, and teaches financial management. Children earn ACES dollars for completing projects, being on time, and working as a team. Children from several neighborhoods (Boys and Girls Clubs, Alta Vista, East Acres, McCartney Park, and Sunset) participate in the program.
Busby volunteered approximately 124 hours for the 2003-04 year. Seventy-five percent of those hours were with the ACES program. The remaining twenty-five percent of those hours were spent volunteering for children with mental and physical challenges. She volunteered with these students at both Austin and Decatur High School during the school year.
Busby’s job with the ACES program was to be a tutor and mentor. Each day of the week was assigned a different activity. The children traveled everywhere everyday by bus. Busby took roll and did head counts every time they rode the bus (which was several times a day). She supervised the group when they toured businesses, stored, cleaned, and set-up equipment, baited the hooks of all of the fishing poles, helped with arts and crafts, spent several hours every Friday riding down waterslides with kids who needed attention or who didn’t have a friend to ride with.
The children served by ACES are the most vulnerable kids who are in need of time and attention the most. Busby taught them about honesty, fairness, and consistency. She was there every day every summer. She watched them grow from elementary school to middle school. Busby had to earn the trust and respect of the clients. They were a diverse group and looked at her as an outsider who was getting paid to entertain them. However, they found out she was there because she wanted to be and was a volunteer.
Busby had to learn how to have empathy. She had to work very hard to win them over. She worked with about 5-10 police officers and probably over 500 children each summer. The impact of the program was to let the kids know that someone was there for them. People who have more (economically) still care about those who may not be in their same situation.
Busby is a senior at Decatur High School. She has received the Gold Pin from the Volunteer Center for achieving over 100 hours of community service while also participating in NHS, gymnastics, Cross Country team, Karate, and cheerleading.