Inspiring the Next Generation of Police Officers

Life can change quickly. When Ashley Ascencio was twelve she saw someone she was close to spend time in jail. This fall, a ride in a police car as part of a criminal justice course sparked Ashley to join the Teen Law Enforcement Academy and make plans to study criminal justice in college with the goal of becoming a police officer herself.

The ride put her in the front seat during traffic stops and gave her the chance to quiz an officer directly about why police do what they do.

Students at T.C. Williams High School can take a ride-along as part of the criminal justice program. This fall, they have also been able to sign up for the Teen Law Enforcement Academy — run through the Alexandria Police Department — to get real insight into how the police operate.

Both the criminal justice classes and the Teen Law Enforcement Academy offer students the chance to explore future career opportunities and help to build trust between youth and law enforcement. The two courses are among the more than 60 Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses offered at T.C. and in middle schools.

Lydia Argyare and Officer Dylan Lemley in a squad car

T.C. Williams junior Lydia Agyare and Officer Dylan Lemley

The experience changed my perception of police. Since I did the ride-along last November, I have felt like I could do this and have almost been obsessed with the idea. The ride-along helped me overcome my lack of confidence and take part in the Teen Law Enforcement Academy,” said T.C. junior Lydia Agyare, who shadowed a domestic violence call.

I got to see what it’s like when a driver gets pulled over and talk through the things an officer considers and the decisions they make in different situations. The whole time, I was really wishing that I could trade places with her and be the officer. As we rode along, I really knew that this is what I want to do,” Ashley said.

Students get real-life, hands on exposure to law enforcement through the Academy. But it’s also about building relationships, mentoring students, being a resource and connecting them with others in the community who can help them if they need it. Students leave the program with a liaison to the police department, and I leave with an army of student liaisons,” said Officer Dylan Lemley, director of the Teen Law Enforcement Academy.

This is a perfect example of partnering with another organization to expand access to unique experiences for our students. Our students have access to opportunities that give them the exposure, skills and experience they need to make empowered decisions about their future and are well equipped to succeed. These opportunities also help to build positive relationships between students and police officers, which benefits all,” said T.C. Williams High School Principal Peter Balas.

Learn more about Career Technical Education in middle school and at T.C. Williams High School.

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