Since he was in second grade, at Gerald Adams Elementary School in Key West, Yandy Rocamora has dreamed of being a police officer.
He was inspired by the school’s resource officer, who helped Rocamora by serving as a mentor and showing him the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong.
“I wanted to do what he did for others,” Rocamora said Wednesday.
When Rocamora was in the fifth grade, the SRO died from cancer. Rocamora and his family, who are originally from Cuba, moved to Bradenton in 2013. He began at Bayshore High School in the 10th grade, but he didn’t let his dream of becoming a police officer die.
And now, Rocamora is getting significant financial help toward his dream. The Tanya Clavey Memorial Foundation recently awarded him a full scholarship to the Law Enforcement Academy at Manatee Technical College.
It’s the first time since 2009, the foundation has been able to sponsor the full cost of a scholarship to the law enforcement academy. The foundation is the brainchild of Palmetto police officer Adam Spatafora and is named in honor of his older sister, who died in 1989 at the age of 16 as a victim in a drunk driving accident in California.
“I actually don’t have any physical memory of her,” Spatafora said.
When Spatafora first started with the police department, he was assigned to Palmetto High. Through the course of his work there, which included helping guide students to the right resources, he realized there was no specific financial aid for students who wanted to become police officers.
The first few years were loosely organized, with Spatafora raising $500 here and there for students by running car washes and the like. But then he gained a non-profit status and put together a board of directors. The organization’s first big fundraiser was a car show in January in Palmetto, which helped raise the money for Rocamora’s scholarship, which will sum up to about $5,000.
“Yandy is a genuinely good person from what we can tell, a hard worker, shows good leadership qualities, bilingual and an athlete,” Spatafora said. “We hope his desire to be a police officer and these qualities take him far, especially with a free education.”
Rocamora found out about the scholarship from Stacy Schmoll, a guidance counselor at Palmetto High School and the mother of Miriam Schmoll, Rocamora’s girlfriend. The scholarship application includes a 500-word essay written by the student and a letter of recommendation from someone in the community.
The application includes questions about the grades, athletics and community service.
After applying, Rocamora said he originally thought he didn’t get the scholarship, because he somehow missed the first call from Spatafora. A week or so later, he received the call.
“I’m just grateful that I actually got the scholarship from him,” he said. “They’re really nice people.”
A football and baseball player, Rocamora will start classes at the MTC’s East Campus in the fall. Students who complete the eight-month program can take the state certification exam.
After he finishes, Rocamora said he’s like to stay and work locally, maybe in Sarasota.
“I just want to help the community out,” he said.
Tanya Clavey Memorial Foundation
The nonprofit foundation was started by Adam Spatafora in memorial of his older sister Tanya Clavey, who died at the age of 16 as a victim of drunk-driving accident in 1989 in California. The foundation aims to educate the community of the effects of drunk driving, help more students finish the police academy and provide financial support to students entering the academy.
For more information on the foundation, or to apply for a scholarship, visit www.tanyaclaveyfoundation.org.