High school students considering a career in law enforcement and related fields got the experience of a lifetime when they participated in the Warren County Community College Criminal Justice Academy in mid-July.
The one-week program, held July 11-15, provided students with a realistic and practical view of the criminal justice and law enforcement field. Students had the opportunity to explore potential criminal justice career options such as law enforcement, forensics, criminology, law, and corrections.
Students learned first-hand from the professionals, including representatives of the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, local law enforcement agencies, and the criminal justice staff at WCCC.
Among the topics discussed were patrol procedures, criminal investigations, crime scene investigation, trial preparation, canine operations, and special weapons and tactics (SWAT). Field trips to the Warren County Courthouse and Warren County Jail were also part of the program.
Some students extended the experience with a specially-designed online course and earned three college credits. One of those students was Mikayla Hayes of Phillipsburg.
“This was the 100 percent best experience of my life,” said Hayes, who will be a senior at Phillipsburg High School this fall. “The Academy really helped me set my life goals.”
Hayes, whose father is a police officer in New Brunswick, isn’t sure whether she’ll go into law enforcement as a policewoman or an attorney. In any case, the Academy has helped to shape her life in many ways and has set the stage for her future endeavors.
“I have always watched crime shows, always have found them interesting,” said Hayes, who was the program’s graduation speaker. “And my father is always telling me cool stories about what it’s like to be a cop. The Academy for me, was a great way to see what it’s all about [on another level].”
Indeed, the Academy didn’t just give students an overview, but it delved into specifics.
“They went into details,” said Brett Torre of Washington, who will be a sophomore at Warren County Tech in September. “They went into details for things like crime investigation, interrogation, and interviewing people who have committed a crime. The instructors were really good. They definitely knew what they were talking about.”
According to Torre, it was a great experience that gave him the opportunity to better understand law enforcement and provide him with a deeper background so that he can better prepare himself for his ultimate goal of becoming a police officer following a military career.
“Although we have run academies in the past, this is the first time we partnered with the college to give the students an opportunity to also earn college credits,” said Richard Burke, Warren County Prosecutor. “I have always felt that young people should try to observe their intended career when possible, so they can see what they are getting into. The Criminal Justice Academy provides ‘hands on’ experience in many aspects of law enforcement and is taught by local law detectives, patrol officers, tactical officers and assistant prosecutors. The program was well received and we hope to continue offering the opportunity on an annual basis.”
In all, 21 high school students from throughout the county participated. In addition to Hayes and Torre, they included Kwinto Adams, Kwyla Adams, Wyatt Almer, Benjamin Almer, Kendra Bayne, Brandon Bowlby, Shane Cadigan, Gianna Coleman, Craig Cronce, Lauren Hulser, Marykate Juliano, Justin Mayberry, Kacey O’Donnell, Isaac Ortega, Park Patel, Payton Quick, Shannon Ruddy, Eric Skuropacki, and Tyle Wyckoff.