Investing in the Future: Verizon Foundation Awards $1.5 Million to Develop Education Programs at National Law Enforcement Museum

In his role as FBI Agent Martin Fitzgerald on the CBS TV show “Without a Trace,” Eric Close gets into some difficult situations. In the nation’s capital on Monday, Close reminded a group of 8th-grade students who the “real heroes of law enforcement” are: men and women, such as their own School Resource Officer, Paul Lopez of the DC Metropolitan Police Department, who put their lines on the line every day facing real criminals with real weapons … and without the chance for a second take.

Close was in town to help announce a major $1.5 million grant from the Verizon Foundation to the National Law Enforcement Museum to develop educational and interactive technology programs at the Museum set to open in 2013 in Judiciary Square, adjacent to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The grant was announced Monday morning at Lincoln Multicultural Middle School in Northwest Washington. Since January, Betsy Bowers, the Museum’s director of education and visitor experience, and Officer Lopez have engaged two classes of 8th-graders in a curriculum called Project Citizen. Developed by the Center for Civic Education, Project Citizen teaches young people about the operations of their government and empowers them to make positive change in their communities.

“Through the generosity of Verizon and the partnership we are announcing today, the Museum will be able to dramatically expand and enhance the type of meaningful, leading-edge educational programming we offer to young people and their families,” said NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd.

For example, the grant will support “What’s in the Evidence?,” a standards-based school age educational program, which will help students learn how to use clues and solve cases presented by National Law Enforcement Museum exhibits. This program will be enhanced by a host of online materials that can be used by teachers and students, all supported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a content partner of the Verizon Foundation’s initiative. The grant will also fund domestic violence awareness, prevention and education programs in the Museum and in the community.

Representing Verizon at the announcement were Patrick Gaston, President of the Verizon Foundation, and Mike Mason, a former high-ranking FBI official who now serves as Chief Security Officer for Verizon Communications. At-Large DC Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who chairs the Committee on Public Safety, and MPD Assistant Chief Peter Newsham, who oversees investigations, also took part.

But it was Eric Close who the students really had come to see. He asked the young people about the problem-solving projects they were working on through Project Citizen, and he heard some innovative ideas—such as installing surveillance cameras near liquor stores that sell to underage minors and expanding recycling efforts to reduce trash and the crime and disorder that usually follow it.

Most of all, Close encouraged the young people to set their sights high—whether that means becoming an actor, a law enforcement officer or the President of the United States. And because they are Museum education pioneers, Eric got Craig Floyd to commit to having the students participate in the Museum’s groundbreaking in the fall of 2010.

Read the news release announcing the grant.