An idea initiated by one Alexandria Technical and Community College instructor ended up helping every law enforcement student and students from other departments, too.

One of the objectives of a spring semester course titled “Law Enforcement and Community” is for students to practice their leadership and professionalism by completing mock job interviews.

When assigning this in previous years, instructor Mandi VanOverbeke noticed a common thread among her students. They were focusing more on their attire than practicing for the interviews. Several students either struggled to afford new business clothes or lived too far away to retrieve their professional attire from their closets back home.

Law enforcement student Cody Pausch cringed when he found out he would need to find business professional clothing for the assignment.

“Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not one to dress up for anything,” Pausch said. “I have only worn a suit once in my life, and I have heard how expensive they could be. As a college student, it’s already hard to make ends meet.”

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So, VanOverbeke asked fellow ATCC faculty and staff and then Helping Hands of Alexandria for donations.

“I knew that by contacting them (Helping Hands), I could reach numerous people in the community who all believe in the same philosophy of helping others and paying it forward,” VanOverbeke said.

Within minutes of Helping Hands posting a donation request online, VanOverbeke had people asking where the drop-off spot was.

Mandy Brower, owner of The Dashery, reached out to VanOverbeke. Brower was going through inventory and wanted to donate clothing to ATCC that she would’ve typically given away somewhere else.

“I was completely awestruck at the generosity of the community and The Dashery,” VanOverbeke said. “I figured I would be able to offer a handful of students the opportunity to use a new suit coat or some ties, but I never imagined what actually happened.”

ATCC received dozens of suits, shirts, pants, ties and shoes. Pausch picked out a black suit coat, a white button-up, black pants and a tie.

“When I heard that there were going to be donations, I felt super relieved,” Pausch said. “I knew I didn’t have to spend an arm and a leg to buy a suit to keep because I knew I would have to buy one to use in my future interviews.”

Since he’s finishing up his last year of school, Pausch has started applying for jobs and recently used his new suit for an interview.

“I feel like because of it, I set a really good first impression,” he said. “It may not seem like much, but I wouldn’t be able to afford them.”

Cody Pausch
Cody Pausch

The donation request sent out to the community included both male and female business clothes, but a smaller selection was available for women. Only eight of the 70 students taking VanOverbeke’s “Law Enforcement and Community” class are female.

“Statistically, females represent around 10-12% of law enforcement officers,” VanOverbeke said. “Something that I would absolutely like to see change for this profession.”

Several students told VanOverbeke how great it was to see people supporting law enforcement.

“Unfortunately, right now they hear and see a lot of negativity surrounding this profession, and it meant a lot to them to know that there are people who support them,” she said.

Since there was such an extensive amount of clothing donations, every law enforcement student and students from other programs were able to take home a full business suit.

And everyone who presented a mock interview in VanOverbeke’s class could focus on the assignment rather than the attire.

“The mock interviews went incredibly well and all of the students looked amazing,” she said. “They were able to look and feel confident because they could dress the part.”