Public employees nationwide give back to their communities in extraordinary ways every day. From donating to food banks to helping neighbors and protecting their communities, public employees have always been there when their community needs them the most. 

Here are just a few recent stories of public employees going above and beyond in service to their communities:

We’ve likely all had a school teacher impact us in ways we’ll never forget. For some students in the Hilldale Public School system in Oklahoma, Jessica Gaylor is undoubtedly making a positive impact. Gaylor, a 15-year veteran teacher in the Hilldale School District, was teaching third grade when she noticed a gaping hole in her ability to communicate effectively with students who speak English as a second language. Knowing that the school district did not have an English as a Second Language (ESL) program, Gaylor took it upon herself to self-fund and obtain certification as an ESL teacher. “The main goal is to make sure that we’re providing an equitable education for these students and to make sure their families are able to be involved in school,” she said. “We want to make sure education is available to every student, no matter their cultural background, their linguistic background and to let them know we want them to be successful.” Because of her ingenuity and dedication, Gaylor now works with students of all grades across the school district. “I just want immigrant families to know their students are welcome at school,” she said. 

In Claremore, Oklahoma, firefighters and teachers are coming together to raise awareness and funds for students with autism. Claremore firefighter Jake Graham is the father to a five-year-old son who has autism. His experiences with his son have opened his eyes to the need for more public awareness about autism. Graham and his fellow firefighters at the Claremore Fire Department decided to sell t-shirts before Autism Awareness Month in April and donate all proceeds to the Claremore Public Schools’ Special Education program. This fundraiser aims to provide the school system with enough funds to improve the learning environment for autistic children in the district. “If we raise enough, they can buy iPads to help kids talk, maybe set up sensory rooms so if a kid is having a sensory issue they can go in this room, they can be in a low light area with no noise, they can kind of calm down, decompress, and get back on their normal day to day schedule,” Graham said. 

Finally, when Minneapolis Metro Transit bus driver Ambrose Younge started his work day on February 22, he had no idea he was about to become one young boy’s hero. As Younge made his way through the snowy city, he noticed a child wandering from car to car, pulling on door handles. Knowing that school had been canceled, Younge said he didn’t feel right leaving the child alone, so he proceeded to convince the boy to get on the bus, even though the boy wouldn’t speak to him. He alerted the police department and, according to patrol officer Juan Peralta, “It was just a matter of seconds before we realized it was the child missing from north Minneapolis.” The 9-year-old non-verbal autistic boy had evaded his caretaker and wandered about 15 blocks from his home. He was returned to his family unharmed. Younge, who says he doesn’t consider himself a hero, said, “I consider myself a dad because that’s what I would hope someone would do for my child. I guess we are the guardians of the city.”

Be sure to check back the week after next for more stories of public employees giving back to their communities!