John Swenson is a Community Relations Police Officer for the City of Virginia in Virginia, Minnesota.
With over 16 years of experience within law enforcement, John is not only a spearhead in his community, but an outstanding leader. John is actively creating a co-response model where law enforcement is working closely with a therapist and a mental health practitioner in hopes to change how Police Officers respond to citizens experiencing a mental health crisis. In addition to this, John has also worked closely with schools to provide expert advice to administration while providing a positive role model for students of all ages. Throughout his incredible career as a Police Officer, he has been involved in helping those going through a mental health crisis. He has expertise ranging from being a tactical officer, a homicide and sexual assault detective, and a community leader. He looks forward to expanding his collaborative professional development, serving his community and working with at risk students and local wraparound services and programming.
Danielle Hess is the Check and Connect Mentor at the Northland Learning Center in Virginia, Minnesota.
A born community leader, Danielle has an eclectic work history that ranges from her role as an assistant vice president of a local bank and a soup kitchen to suicide prevention and the Salvation Army, and much more. Now her community leadership has brought her to working at a level four special education and alternative school which also functions as a coop, serving ten school districts in northern Minnesota. She began her educational career working with nonverbal autistic students from the ages of 5 – 8, before she moved toward the ALC side of the school to work with high school kids where she found her niche.
Working within an alternative setting, Danielle is able to push the boundaries of the educational system to better support and serve the individual needs and strengths of the students she works with. Danielle is a relationship-focused educator who thrives on creating a sense of trust, safety and connectedness with her students. Danielle assisted in the preparation for Smiles United to come to her school, supporting some in their processes within the court system, bridging the gap and communication between law enforcement and students, to finding housing, food, mental health support, care packings, clothing, and basic need items. Her role to serve students, connect students and families to community programs and support and create a space where students feel supported brings her great pride.
Her wish is to continue in her community leadership, and fulfill her dream of creating a shelter for children 9 – 17 year-olds who don’t have a safe place to call home.
The Signs. The Support. The Reality.
It Takes a Community