Girl wins scholarship after writing about crime prevention

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - The memory of Craig Rath, a Chesterfield police officer killed while on duty on may 27, 1999 is helping a Chesterfield girl extend her education.

11-year-old Erin Fogle beat out 4,000 other Chesterfield County fifth grade students in a creative competition that highlights crime prevention taught through S.T.E.P.P, Success through Education and Proactive Policing. The program was created by the Chesterfield County Police Department.

Like all other elementary school students in Chesterfield, Fogle is taught by a crime prevention officer. From kindergarten to fifth grade they're taught how to spot crime and what to do in a dangerous situation.

But it's an essay, written by Fogle, that set the Bettie Weaver Elementary School student apart.

Reading the words she carefully crafted, "We learned things like don't play with guns. And if you see one, stop, don't touch, leave the area and tell an adult," you hear just how Erin Fogle plans to fight crime.

"We can also help the police by watching neighbors houses while they are away on vacation," said Fogle as she read from her five-paragraph essay.

For the last six years, the pint-size tween soaked up everything Child Safety Officer Cindy Denny said.

"And it's always better to be safe than sorry. If you hear that someone has a weapon you can tell a trusted adult," said Fogle.

Denny, a crime prevention officer at Weaver elementary uses S.T.E.P.P. to educate students on crime.

"We are educating them on what their choices are and what the consequences are going to be if they get arrested and how it can follow you for the rest of your life," said Denny.

Each year, at the end of the course, fifth graders write an essay about what they've learned. The winning writer gets a $500 Craig Rath Memorial Scholarship. Rath's widow oversees the scholarship

"And they never had children, so she thought this would be a really good way to honor him by setting it up for a child so we kind of consider all these kids that win, her kids," Denny said.

Fogle's shining moment came during a school assembly Thursday.

"I didn't know what to say. I was speechless," Fogle said.

Her mother was beaming.

"When you saw the emotion of the officers that presented the award, they had known him," said mother Meg Fogle. "They had worked with him. They had recruited him. You could see the feeling there and that makes it so much more special."

Erin Fogle is now paying it forward.  She's teaching her sister and brother to play it safe. And her mother feels better about Erin moving on to sixth grade.

"The tips are so good to learn because you never know when something is going to happen to you," said the 11-year old.

The Chesterfield County Police Chief selected the winning essay.

Erin Fogle is the 12th recipient of the Craig Rath Memorial Scholarship.

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