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Wesley B. Poke receives South Georgia Tech’s Lt. Michael Sangster Law Enforcement scholarship

From Staff Reports

 

AMERICUS – Commitment is more than just a word to South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy Class 20-02 cadet Wesley R. Poke of Ashburn.  Despite personal hardships, the COVID-19 pandemic, and traveling many miles during the past four months, his dedication and commitment paid off.  He is finally able to realize his dream of graduating from the South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy and earning his Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification.  He was also selected as the recipient of the Lt. Michael Sangster Law Enforcement scholarship for his class.

“I am a 2006 Turner County High School graduate.  At that time, my dream was to be a college graduate and help my family.  I came from a less fortunate family and grew up in a single parent home. I didn’t have the funds to carry me through college, so I choose to enter the military.  Today, I am able to realize my dream of entering the Law Enforcement field,” said Poke.

But the road to graduation and a job with the Ashburn Police Department was not easy.  Poke is the father of four little girls, Na’Zhyri, Makalah, Makiah, and Madison.  His youngest daughter, Madison, was born early on November 4, 2020 while he was still a student in the Law Enforcement Academy.

His wife was hospitalized in October due to complications and could not return to work.  Those complications forced the doctors to put his wife in early labor and his daughter was placed in the NICU in a Macon hospital. “I was at my lowest point and feeling down but I knew I had to stay strong and stay focused,” said Poke.  “I turned to God and had a lot of helpful friends including SGTC Law Enforcement Academy Director Brett Murray and his assistant, Melissa Grantham, who encouraged me along the way.”  The Ashburn Police Department also allowed him to make arrangements for travel to go back and forth to see his wife and daughter in the hospital during those trying times.

“It was not easy,” admitted Polk, “but I am glad that I remained committed and completed.”  Polk went through some sleepless nights and did without so that his children and wife were cared for.  “This scholarship is a blessing.  I appreciate it so much.  I am sorry for Lt. Michael Sangster’s family’s loss, but I am grateful for this opportunity. I will do my best to honor his legacy.”

Polk is the 16th Lt. Michael Sangster scholarship award recipient at South Georgia Tech since 2012. Lt. Michael Sangster was an officer with the Crisp County Sheriff’s Office and served as a volunteer instructor for the South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy from the inception of the program.  He lost his battle with cancer and passed away in 2012 at the age of 35.  With the help of family, LEA students, friends, SGTC faculty and staff, and Lou Crouch, a scholarship was endowed in his memory for SGTC LEA students.

Michael Sangster of Cordele held numerous POST certifications, including General Instructor, Firearms Instructor, Defensive Tactics Instructor, TASER Instructor, and Driver Instructor.

Lt. Sangster was born in Dooly County but spent most of his life in Cordele. He was the son of Robert Sangster, Sr. and Connie Sangster Youngblood.  He has a sister, Melissa Sangster and a son, Caleb.

“On behalf of South Georgia Technical College and the South Georgia Technical College Foundation, I would like to thank the Sangster family, Lou Crouch and the other individuals who donated to this particular scholarship for partnering with us,” said South Georgia Technical College President Dr. John Watford.  “We appreciate the opportunities that this scholarship is providing for our deserving Law Enforcement Academy students.   Your investment in an endowed scholarship will continue to give back to our students indefinitely.  We appreciate everything you are doing for our students and our community.  Thank you again for recognizing the value of the educational opportunities and for supporting this effort.  The students you help today will be the public servants that we count on tomorrow in our local communities.”

For more information about making a donation to the Lt. Michael Sangster Scholarship Fund or for endowing a scholarship at South Georgia Technical College, contact Su Ann Bird, SGTC Foundation Executive Director at 229.931.2110 or sbird@southgatech.edu.  Contributions may also be mailed to the SGTC Foundation, P.O. Box 6102, Americus, GA.

The South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy program takes 18 weeks to complete and most recruits qualify for the HOPE Grant and other forms of financial aid. Admission standards require all students to undergo a thorough background check and adhere to all rules as set forth by the state POST Council. Students will also have to meet minimum scores in English, reading and math.

For more information about the Law Enforcement Academy contact the Law Enforcement Academy office at 229.931.2716 or SGTC Law Enforcement Academy Director Brett Murray at 229.931.2756 or bmurray@southgatech.edu.