Part 3: ‘I Promise to be a Good Citizen’
The nearly 30 sixth-graders at Bucknell Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia stood at their desks, raised their right hands, and recited in unison a pledge they knew well: “I accept the position of junior special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I promise to be a good citizen. I will obey all the laws of my country and do my best in school. I will make the right choices by remaining drug free, staying in school, and practicing non-violent behavior in handling difficult situations.”
That pledge begins every session of the FBI’s Junior Special Agent Program, which aims to give fifth- and sixth-graders in disadvantaged neighborhoods the skills and discipline they need to steer clear of gangs, drugs, and crime.
Located just outside the District of Columbia, Bucknell was one of the first schools to embrace the FBI’s Adopt-A-School outreach program 20 years ago. Now, the Washington Field Office administers the program to six schools in and around the nation’s capital, dispatching agents and other Bureau employees throughout the school year to be tutors and mentors to more than 300 young people annually.
“During the past two decades we have reached thousands of kids,” said Special Agent William Woodson. “Our goal is to provide opportunities for these young people who might not have had them otherwise.”
The Junior Special Agent Program at Bucknell consists of core blocks of instruction that integrate with classroom curriculum. For example, when the students learn about the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, they take field trips to battlefield sites and the U.S. Capitol to reinforce what they learn. Funds for the trips are provided by the local Citizens Academy Alumni Association, a non-profit organization that supports the Adopt-A-School Program and uses no taxpayer money. The students also meet a variety of FBI agents who talk to them about gangs and drugs, as well as core values such as integrity, respect, and honesty. And the program requires students to exercise on a regular basis.
“We are helping to make sure that the kids don’t do drugs and stay in school,” Woodson said. “Our agents have a positive influence on them.”
“The FBI is teaching our students to do the right thing and believe in themselves,” said Paul Adams, who participated with the Junior Special Agent Program for nine years as a Bucknell teacher and now serves as a liaison between the school and the Washington Field Office. “This program shows our young people that no matter where you come from or what your background is, you can succeed.”
Sixth-grade teachers Nisreen Daoud and Amanda Frank are getting their first exposure to the Junior Special Agent Program this year at Bucknell. “A lot of our students go home to empty houses,” Daoud explained. “Their parents are working all the time. This is their safe zone. They feel at home when they are at school.” And because the Junior Special Agent Program has been a fixture at Bucknell for so long, the students look forward to it. “They can’t wait until they get to sixth grade,” Daoud said. “The first day of school the kids were like, ‘When is the FBI program starting?’ ”
“One of our goals is to give these elementary students their first taste of the FBI,” said Woodson. “We want to groom young leaders.” He added, “This program teaches them core values that we hope they will carry into adulthood so they can become great community ambassadors in whatever they choose to do.”
The Junior Special Agent Program aims to give fifth- and sixth-graders the information, skills, and discipline they need to stay away from gangs, drugs, and crime. Along the way, students learn about the FBI and the ways in which law enforcement helps to serve and protect their communities.