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Article - Detective thanks donors for helping students

Detective thanks donors for helping students

“I think that’s pretty amazing that you have the power to do something like that,” he tells them

Posted: Tue, Jul 12, 2016

“I feel really comfortable with the drug dealers and prostitutes,” says the man holding the mic.

His audience laughs.

“It’s true. I love it. I love that kind of work.”

The man, John Focht, is a detective in vice and narcotics for the Council Bluffs Police Department. He’s muscular and wears a stubbly beard, a look that probably helps him fit in with those drug dealers and prostitutes. He doesn’t look like the kind of guy who is easily scared.

But a few years ago, he was.

“I was really scared to go back to school,” he tells the audience. “I was intimidated.”

Focht now fits in well at UNO as a nontraditional student studying criminal justice and international studies. He thrives in UNO’s highly regarded general studies program for adults. He’s also a grateful recipient of the Louise Coe Spire Memorial Scholarship, which he says actually helped him afford to go back to school.

He works full time as a cop. He likes working sex trafficking cases best, he says, because even though those stories are sad, he sees these people as victims – people with potential. He can help them in tangible ways, and that makes him feel good about his work.

“When you start out to be a cop, you think, ‘Man, I’m going to help people. That’s going to be my thing.’ And then you get a little older and you get more experience and you find out that it’s not exactly what you thought it might be. It’s pretty difficult. It’s difficult to make a huge impact. And so what I’ve tried to do is make an impact on individual people rather than saying, ‘I’m going to change the world.’”

That’s why he jumped at the chance to speak to this audience of University of Nebraska donors – members of the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Burnett Society who’ve gathered for their annual luncheon this day in April inside the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center at UNO.

He knows these are people who’ve planned to leave a gift for the University of Nebraska in their wills.

“When our time’s up,” he says, “you want to be able to say, ‘I’ve helped someone – that’s the legacy that I’ve left.’”

He’s left the podium.

He’s left his script.

He speaks from the heart to these good people who share his goal in life:

To lift people up.

 “And so I guess what I want to say to you all is that, by giving to UNO and providing an education to people, I think that you can tangibly help people on an individual basis, too. And I think that’s pretty amazing that you have the power to do something like that. I’ve benefited from that. And when I got the Spire Scholarship, I read about her, and I felt like I almost got to know her.

“So I just want to commend you for doing that and for making that decision. Not only has it helped me, I think it helps a lot of people that you’ll never see, that you’ll never know.”

John Focht is just one example of the type of students who will benefit from the University of Nebraska’s “Our Students, Our Future fundraising initiative, which will help make better futures for us all. The two-year, $200 million initiative runs through 2017. If you would like to help students like him, please contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.

If you would like to join the Burnett Society or learn more about it, please contact the foundation’s Kim Waller at 402-458-1144 or 800-432-3216.

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