Julie Soto of Oglethorpe awarded South Georgia Technical College Lou Crouch Law Enforcement Scholarship

Published 9:21 pm Thursday, December 16, 2021

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By Su Ann Bird

AMERICUS – Julie Soto of Oglethorpe was presented with the Lou Crouch Law Enforcement Scholarship by the South Georgia Technical College Foundation at the completion of the South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy Class 21 – 02 recently.  Soto earned her Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification from the South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy.  She was also presented with the Academic Achievement Award for the highest academic average in her class.

“I have always dreamed about helping and giving back to my country and being the change in my community.  This scholarship opens so many opportunities for me.  It will help make me a better officer, and it will benefit my family by allowing me to further my education in law enforcement.  I am so grateful to Lou Crouch, the SGTC Foundation and South Georgia Technical College for this opportunity,” said Soto.

Lou Crouch of Bryon endowed his first scholarship at South Georgia Technical College in January 2013 to assist students who enrolled in the South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy and with Soto, Crouch has provided scholarships for 29 students so far.

South Georgia Technical College President Dr. John Watford congratulated Soto on receiving the Lou Crouch scholarship and wished her the best as she starts her career as a POST certified officer.  “I am very proud of you and I am proud of Lou Crouch and the other individuals who have supported the SGTC Law Enforcement Academy through individual scholarships,” said President Watford.

Soto is 21-years-old and shared that she has had to overcome many hardships to get to this point in her life.  “While in high school, I became a teen mother and wife. But I didn’t let that stop me.  I graduated from high school and was the first person to graduate in my family.  With a newborn, I enrolled at South Georgia Tech and earned an associate degree in Criminal Justice,” said Soto, who added that while in college, her interest in law enforcement grew.

“I decided I wanted to become a police officer.  I wanted to give back to my community by making them feel safe.  I also want to work to help people understand the law and build trust and respect with police,” explained Soto.  With her husband’s support, she quit her job in construction and enrolled in the Law Enforcement Academy at South Georgia Tech.  Her husband took an extra job to support her and her family so she could pursue her dream.

“I am truly blessed that I was able to join the Law Enforcement Academy and to have come this far,” added Soto.  “Even though I have overcome many obstacles, there will be more to come.  According to statistics, in 2019 only 12.8% of police officers are female, even a smaller group of these female officers are Hispanic.  With this scholarship, I can continue my education and work to encourage other females or even minorities to join law enforcement and also rise in leadership positions.  Women are needed in law enforcement.  They have high-level communication skills, tend to have a calming effect on males, and are rated as trustworthy, which can help in many situations.”

Soto believes that more women and minorities in law enforcement would cause a dramatic change in our society and would allow the public to see we are diverse and working for one cause, which is to protect and serve.

SGTC Foundation Executive Director Su Ann Bird thanked Lou Crouch for his part in helping students like Soto and others obtain their dreams of entering the law enforcement field.  “This scholarship is a tremendous help to the young men and women who are training to become public servants and work as law enforcement officers here in Georgia.  This scholarship is not only helping our students but it is making communities safer.  We appreciate Lou Crouch’s involvement and the financial support of this program and our students,” said Bird.

For more information about donating or establishing an endowed 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.

South Georgia Tech is one of five technical colleges in Georgia that are allowed to provide training for new law enforcement officers to receive their basic law enforcement training and obtain college credit at the same time. The cadets undergo 18 weeks and over 700 hours of intense training mentally and physically.

The LEA graduates receive their POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) certification from South Georgia Technical College as well as a technical certificate of credit that can be utilized toward a diploma or Associate Degree in Criminal Justice.

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.