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Seven members of the Tracy Ambassadors to Africa and their chaperone, Mrs. Elisa Cruz.

By Steve Abercrombie

What started out as a desire to make more room in a storage unit has become a great partnership with two amazing organizations.

In recent years, the D.A.R.E. students in the city of Tracy have collected and donated books to Brighter Christmas of Tracy. The books were given to more than 1,400 children who annually receive gifts from Brighter Christmas of Tracy.

One year I noticed that the donated books were taking up a large portion of our storage container. I decided to explore other options for the excess books. After a quick search of the internet, I located an organization called the African Library Project. They were building libraries throughout Africa with new and used books. I followed the instructions online and donated a large number of books. The first donation of books helped build between 15 and 20 libraries in Africa.

I also contacted the founder of the African Library Project, Mrs. Chris Bradshaw, regarding her worthy program. She graciously agreed to speak at a couple of D.A.R.E. graduations about her project. Mrs. Bradshaw even brought people from Africa to speak to the students and their parents. We have formed a great partnership and the Tracy D.A.R.E. program has built 32 libraries in various countries in Africa.

During the summer of 2017, we decided to complete the circle. My partner, Tracy police officer Troy Silcox, and I conducted a leadership academy. We worked with 20 awesome high school students on developing their leadership skills and community service outreach. The two-week academy was educational to both the students and us.

During the academy, we spoke to the students about the idea of going to Africa and actually helping to build a library. Several of the students were very interested participating in this project.

In September of 2017, 20 local high school students applied to be members of Tracy Ambassadors to Africa. The students had to write an essay, provide three letters of recommendation and be interviewed by four members of the Tracy community. Nine students were selected and we began soliciting donations from organizations, businesses, community members and other groups.

At the same time, I once again used the internet and located Project Humanity. I spoke with the CEO, Mr. Darren Tipton, about our plan. He was extremely excited and very helpful in planning our trip. He advised me that he had been working with Chris Bradshaw and the African Library Project for several years. This was a perfect match.

Well, I am proud to say the circle is now complete. Today, I received the picture below from Darren. The picture shows the seven members of the Tracy Ambassadors to Africa and their chaperone, Mrs. Elisa Cruz. They are currently in Kenya delivering books that were donated by the fifth-grade students of Tracy.

I am so proud of the D.A.R.E. high school students and the fifth-grade D.A.R.E. students. They have made the commitment to help people halfway around the world. What a great accomplishment.

Steve Abercrombie is a former police officer and City Council member. As the Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer for the Tracy Police Department, he teaches D.A.R.E. lessons in the Tracy, Jefferson and New Jerusalem school districts.

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