Arizona National Guard Soldier inspires local at-risk youth

Arizona National Guard Soldier inspires local at-risk youth

Army Spc. Zachariah Deans conducts a preventative maintenance inspection on a Humvee at the Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix. Deans is a member of the Arizona National Guard’s 153rd Brigade Support Battalion and works full time at Canyon State Academy as a group leader for disadvantaged youth. Deans uses the Army values and skills he developed during his military service to mentor and guide students at the academy he once attended. (National Guard Photo by Spc. Wes Parrell)

PHOENIX – The desire to serve motivates many young Arizonans to enlist in the state’s Army National Guard, and for many of those, the desire compels them to give back on a full-time basis.


One particular Soldier, Army Spc. Zachariah Deans, a motor transport operator with the Arizona Army National Guard’s 153rd Brigade Support Battalion, serves between drill weekends as a group leader for at-risk youth at the school he once attended. He said the school and the Army Guard gave him a helping hand as a once troubled teen and now he’s paying it forward.


“I want to make a difference in the world,” said Deans. “That is all I wanted to do since I was 16 years old.”


Deans grew up in Mesa, Arizona, where he experienced a turbulent childhood.  At 16 he entered an Arizona Child Protective Services program and was enrolled as a student at Canyon State Academy.


Canyon State Academy in Queen Creek, Arizona, is a residential school program for disadvantaged youth. Canyon State focuses on education as well as the social and personal skills necessary to succeed in life.  


“Canyon State Academy provided me support through encouragement and positive role models,” said Deans. “I experienced success on the football team and built confidence in myself.”


Upon graduation Deans entered the workforce in the food service industry but always felt there was something missing.  “I worked menial jobs but wanted to find a career where I could truly help people. That’s when I decided to join the Arizona Army National Guard.”


Deans soon enlisted and reported to Fort Lenard Wood, Missouri, for basic training which he said instilled in him Army values such as discipline, respect and selfless service.


Using his military training and experience from the military, Deans returned to where it all began for him and became a group leader at Canyon State Academy.  As a group leader he is the primary direct-care provider for his assigned students; responsible for helping them meet attainable goals.


“I see kids where I use to be. Using the Army values I help guide them to a path to be self sufficient, not self destructive.” Deans said he feels good knowing that each of them can do what he did to make the most out of their lives.


Deans, now married with a 24-month-old daughter, and a son due this fall, said, “I know that I still want to do more and the Arizona Army National Guard has provided me a foundation to start from.”