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WATCH NOW: Danville's youngest school board member puts on badge for police force to 'be in the trenches'
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WATCH NOW: Danville's youngest school board member puts on badge for police force to 'be in the trenches'

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He became the youngest person elected to the Danville School Board in 2018 at age 19. Now he is a Danville police officer.

Ty’Quan Graves, the 22-year-old vice chairperson of the school board, was sworn in Tuesday and will graduate from the Piedmont Criminal Justice Academy in Martinsville on Friday.

For Graves, who began working on the force as a recruit on Nov. 1, becoming a law enforcement officer is a continuation of his work to make a positive impact in the community.

“I can be the change I want to see,” Graves said Thursday.

He was one of six police officers to be sworn in Tuesday. The others were Zaccheus Davis, Michael Cagle, Sheila Hughes, Bryanna McLaughlin and Cody Young.

Graves has worked and volunteered as a sports coach, tutor and mentor in the Danville and Henry County public school systems, even before being elected to the Danville School Board. Being a police officer allows him to continue engaging with youth, as well as adults and families, Graves said.

“That work continues,” he said. “I still work with youth day in and day out.”

Graves realized he wanted to become a police officer while in his Henry County School System office when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He had found out schools would be shutting down.

“I was thinking, ‘What is school going to look like?’” he said.

He missed working with kids and families and didn’t believe he could make much of a difference through virtual learning or teaching.

“I had a conversation with [Danville Police Chief] Scott Booth to find out what policing looked like,” he said.

Graves admired Booth’s community engagement initiative he implemented under the Danville Police Department. He was also taken with Booth’s enthusiasm for making a difference, a passion that Graves also had.

“They both lined up,” Graves said.

He went on ride-alongs with police to see what law enforcement was like.

“I wanted to be in the trenches myself,” Graves said.

Booth, in a prepared statement, said he was excited to have Graves as a police officer and pointed out his background in public service.

“Ty’Quan has a proven track record of public service and will be an invaluable asset to our organization as we continue to build trust and legitimacy in our neighborhoods and build a safer Danville,” Booth said.

Graves’ decision to put on the badge is just one more avenue for him to serve the community, said Crystal Cobbs, chairperson of the school board.

“The board is proud to support Mr. Graves’ interest in becoming a police officer,” Cobbs said in a prepared statement. “His role as a police officer is just another way that he dedicates his life to serving others, whether it be working for the 5,500 DPS [Danville Public Schools] students or giving back to the community that raised him.”

However, Graves said he has received questions about his choice to become a police officer, especially with the death of George Floyd last year, as well as more recent incidents including the police-involved shooting death of Daunte Wright. Also, two Windsor police officers have been accused of pepper-spraying and pointing their guns at a Black and Latino U.S. Army officer, Caron Nazario, during a traffic stop in December 2020.

“In order to see change, we’ve got to be the change,” Graves said.

For Graves, his selfless efforts for the community are his biggest reward.

“Any time you have the opportunity to to serve the public, it’s just super rewarding,” he said. “Serving the community that raised me, taught me so much, I feel like this is the smallest thing I could do to give back.”

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