Minutes to our scheduled interview, Maxime “Blessing” Gozo calls to confirm our meeting location. It quickly became evident why he was awarded “employee of the quarter” by Mesa Police Department earlier this year.
Gozo is from from Ivory Coast, West Africa and is a business major at Mesa Community College. He became involved with the police department as part of his community engagement requirement as an international student for the 2019 school year. He is the first-ever international student intern at the police department and he helps out in office work and in volunteer recruitment.
“What did do? I didn’t feel like I did anything to deserve this,” Gozo explained his initial reaction to being called up for the award after he had already heard many awards and achievements by long-term officers, staff and volunteers. “My supervisor was like ‘you deserve this, I know you’. I was like ‘ok’. I felt proud.”
Gozo’s direct supervisor is Tara Hall, community partnership administrator for the Mesa Police Department. She said Gozo spent 80 hours volunteering from October to December 2018 which in turn was recognized at the quarterly awards held in January this year.
“From the start, Maxime came eager to learn.” Hall said. “I would give him projects that would rely on ‘hey, can you generate this excel sheet for numbers, can you get these emails out to the volunteers’… he’s a really quick learner.”
Hall wanted to make sure Gozo also had the experience in the field with police officers where he got to participate in community activities like “Shop with A Cop” over the holidays. According to Gozo, this was most memorable experience as he recollected how people in Africa feel a similar distaste for police officers as people do here in the U.S. He shared how outside of the U.S., American law enforcement is perceived as specifically violent towards black people.
“They used to show on TV maybe the white policeman arresting black people… the racial environment. When I came here I saw different things from what I used to see in TV.” Gozo said. “I see the police the way they involve in community activities. It gave me another view about what to think of the police.”
Gozo was given an option to do a different internship for the Spring semester but he chose to stay at the police department. He rides the bus and interns for 10 hours a week. He said he is further inspired by other volunteers who share their time even if they don’t get paid anything. He wants to bring this same mentality to Ivory Coast where he has promoted volunteerism before.
“Volunteering is like showing you can do something, give your time for others, for your community,” Gozo shared. “The first thing I want to do is, like, to get people involved in volunteer, in giving the time to be useful in their community.”
The Community College Initiative (CCI) provides scholarships for students in “historically underrepresented and underserved communities” to spend up to one year of college in the United States. Participants then focus on technical skills within their major and field of interest. In turn, they can use their experiences to contribute to development in their countries.
Gozo is one of 10 scholarship recipients from a competitive pool of roughly 1000 applicants from Ivory Coast, West Africa. He passed a grueling process of essays, English tests, and interviews. He is extremely grateful for this opportunity to experience the United States “live” and that not everything they see on TV is true. He looks forward to taking his experiences and trying to make a difference back home.
Mesa Police Department’s Volunteers in Police Service Program aims to promote community partnership. Positions include many administrative support roles so that paid personnel can focus on specialized tasks and enhance workflow. There are also many internship opportunities including crime analysis, media relations, and forensic services.