|Officer Davis during GSSI's |
"Cadette STEM Series" program
City of Edwardsville Police Officer Joy Davis didn’t know it at the time, but a little Girl Scout misadventure would help her to discover her calling. “One hike, one of my friends and I decided we didn’t want to go to school the next day and came up with a brilliant (or so we thought at the time) idea of rubbing poison ivy all over us. The poison ivy led me into my career,” she explained.
First, however, the poison ivy lead to a miserable rash and a “face so swollen I looked like Mickey Mouse,” as Davis put it. She ended up being sidelined from school for a whole week – and also regretting her decision. One morning while she was watching her classmates board the bus, a police officer stopped to ask her why she wasn’t joining them. “Not that it wasn’t obvious,” Davis added.
“I informed him of my ‘brilliant’ plan to get out of school and how I wished I could take back time and change things. This officer sat with me a while and talked about choices. He even took the time the next day to stop back with donuts and OJ and continue the talk.”
She was impressed that the police officer would stop to talk to a young girl about making good decisions and also inspired. “After that event, I knew that I wanted to be a police officer … not JUST to apprehend criminals, but to talk to kids about the choices that they can and will make in life.”
Today, Officer Davis is a 20-year law enforcement veteran who works with kids as a School Resource Officer and D.A.R.E. spokesperson. Along with her experience with that compassionate officer, she credits her experiences in Girl Scouts for helping her realize how much she enjoys helping people. She remembers realizing her leadership skills when she was asked to provide a week of programming for sons who came to day camp with their volunteer mothers. “I jumped at the idea and quickly put the skills my leader had taught me to work,” she said. “We went fishing, hiking, exploring and even cooked a whole meal in the ground. The boys had a great time and I had a great experience.”
She also recalls enjoying service projects – including earning the Girl Scout Silver Award. For their project, girls from her troop made improvements at Camp Pokanoka in Ottawa, IL, where they spent as much time as possible. The camp had a popular clay pit site that was difficult to access, so the girls built a trail to make it easier for future campers.
After she went to college, Davis returned to camp as a resident camp counselor and even stepped up to maintain the camp when the ranger got sick. “What an opportunity! I once again jumped into action and did what needed to be done,” she recalled.
This can-do attitude helped Davis achieve her dreams of becoming a police officer. “There weren’t as many women getting into law enforcement as there are today,” she said. “In fact, I was only the second female officer to be hired by Edwardsville.” She explained that female aptitude for multitasking and interpreting detail have been beneficial. “This makes us good analysts and good at looking at a variety of aspects of a crime scene and remembering them.” She also cites that being difficult to anger and having good verbal skills has helped her on several occasions throughout her career, so that she was often more easily able to deescalate a situation before it became violent. “As a female in law enforcement, I do believe that we have differences that are unique,” she said.
Twenty years of experience haven’t dulled Davis’s ambitions any – she is currently going back to school to study computer forensics. “When I got into law enforcement, I had an associate’s degree and decided it was time to finish,” she explained. “I chose computer forensics because I see this as the future of crime: a nameless, faceless way of creating havoc for people.” She added that technology-related crimes are on the rise and are not only being committed using computers, but also devices such as cellular phones and game consoles. “What you see is only the beginning,” she said. “This will definitely assist me in my career today and help pave the way for work after I retire.”
Her experiences in Girl Scouts helped Davis realize how crucial strong adult role models are to young people and she remembers her troop leader fondly. “Anita Niffenegger was her name and she was so outgoing,” she recalls. The troop camped year round, canoed fervently, cross-country skied and took a yearly 21-mile hike. “We did everything outdoors,” she said. “If we wanted to climb Mt. Everest, she would make it happen.” The hands-on, empowering experiences that Niffenegger arranged were instrumental in building the girls’ confidence, self-reliance and leadership skills. “The guidance of our leader helped us remain in Girl Scouts long enough that we were able to ‘blaze a trail for the future generations’ in more ways than one,” Davis explained.
Now, as a School Resource Officer and through the D.A.R.E. program, Davis has direct impact on hundreds of young people each year. She advises them to embrace their curiosity to make a future for themselves. “Go to college and after college, never stop learning,” she advises. “Be open-minded and embrace new ways of doing things!”
She also stresses that kids need to learn to be themselves and to be accountable for themselves. “Be genuine,” she tells them. “Take responsibility for your actions.” She believes that helping others is vital. “Most importantly, be a giver and not a taker. Volunteer within your community because it is YOUR community.”
Davis thinks that organizations such as Girl Scouts help young people gain new experiences and grow as people. “They help to develop a sense of self, respect for others and gives youth an opportunity to leave their mark on the world and make it a better place,” she said. “The lessons they can learn are lessons they will carry with them their entire lives. It’s about courage, confidence and character; it’s blazing a trail for future generations to see. It’s lending a helping hand when no one else will and seeing what needs to be done and getting it done. That’s what Girl Scouts taught me!”