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Boy Scout interviews Sheriff Ron Freeman for final merit badge, learns lesson about grace and positivity
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Henry Borgerding, senior at Pinecrest Academy interviews Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman about crime rates among the youth for his final merit badge to complete his Eagle Scout Application.

Henry Borgerding first joined Cub Scouts as a Webelo because his childhood friend invited him to join his troop. Years later, as a senior at Pinecrest Academy, Borgerding has completed hours of requirements to fulfill different badge and project qualifications.

The last goal for him to accomplish is earning his Eagle Scout, and to help him acquire his final badge, Borgerding interviewed Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman about how teens and college-aged students can be better leaders and help the community.  

Freeman began the interview, held on Wednesday, Dec. 23, by explaining the background of crime in the area and saying that Forsyth County has a very low crime rate. The most common types of crimes according to Freeman are those related to substance abuse, disorderly conduct such as petty theft and fighting, and sexting, which can trigger very serious child pornography charges.

“Unfortunately, we see young men and women engage in [sexting] and age becomes an issue, and that then becomes a criminal act,” Freeman said. “We hope to see that go away or certainly decrease, and education is key for that.”

Freeman said education is one of the best ways to prevent crimes from happening, especially sexting among minors. He also explained that, regarding substance abuse, there are two K-9 units that oversee the schools in Forsyth County, and that there has been a large increase in the amount of School Resource Officers stationed around the county.

“The idea is that [the students] know the dogs are there all the time,” Freeman said. “And part of that is psychological for … if a student was leaning towards bringing drugs to school, it might make you think twice about it.”

Freeman also acknowledged that socio-economic status and surrounding circumstances also play a part in increased crime rates, but he said crime is still very low for the area.

“Majority of significant crime in Forsyth County … are generally from people who live outside of Forsyth County,” Freeman said. “So, we don’t see a significant number out of our high school and college age kids here. And that’s a blessing. I think that’s a testament in some respects to our parents, and it’s also a testament to our young men and women here. I mean, they’re high-performers, they’re striving to accomplish something, they’re involved in a lot of different things.”

Borgerding is one of the high-aspiring teens, applying for the United States Military Academy, or West Point, and already securing a nomination from Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

In order to complete his Eagle Scout application, Borgerding had one more merit badge to submit: the Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge. In order to successfully complete this, he identified a problem in the community, young people and their propensity for crime, and interviewed a government official that could share guidance on this topic. Borgerding said he thought Freeman was the best choice because of his position and experience.

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While the aforementioned crimes are issues in the county among the younger population, Freeman said the best key to prevention and help is to be the angel on a friend’s shoulder – to have the courage to speak up and encourage your friends to do better.

“It seems a little cliché and silly, but it really works – different faces, different places,” Freeman said.

He said changing location and people to hang out with can help drastically change a person’s situation, especially youth that are truly struggling with substance abuse.

Freeman also encouraged parents and youth to get involved in local programs, such as Whisper, a student-led movement in schools that encourages better conversation and understanding to cultivate inclusive and supportive communities in schools.

Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office hosts a Teen Interception Program that focuses on saving teen lives and redirecting them to make better decisions. The program consists of a mixture of volunteered and mandated teens, and it lasts for seven weeks. TIP exists as a free teen drug educational program to help young residents with substance abuse before they find themselves in the criminal justice system.

Along with the programs and movements already in effect, Freeman also explained how far a simple act of kindness could go for a stranger, and he encouraged all people, young and old, to participate in spreading positivity.

“Leave the bigger tip for the waitress that looks like she’s having a hard day,” Freeman said. “Give a little grace to somebody that’s being grumpy to you. Don’t tell them they’re the No. 1 driver in America when they pull out in front of you, you know? It costs you nothing, but man, what a difference it might make for someone.”

Freeman quoted US Navy Adm. William McRaven, saying that something as simple as making your bed every morning could change the world.

“Everyday, do something small,” Freeman said. “Make a small difference every day. And when you get the chance to make a big difference, make it in a big way. But there’s always going to be a small opportunity every day, as long as you look for it. That’s my best Dad-Sheriff-Man advice that I can give to the youth.”

Borgerding said that he had recently finished his Eagle Scout Project, which consisted of installing a new set of stairs at his school, Pinecrest Academy.

“[The stairs] were all rotting and falling apart, but now … they’re much safer and much larger,” Borgerding said. “[Students] use [those stairs] to get to our baseball games, so I think now it’s going to be better for everyone.”

Freeman complimented Borgerding on his commitment to Boy Scouts, saying he had always hired every Eagle Scout that had interviewed with him, a sentiment his father had instilled in him.

“To my dad’s point, I’ve never been disappointed in a single Eagle Scout that I’ve hired,” Freeman said. “They’ve always been hard workers, and they’ve always had heart and compassion.”