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Cadet to Police Chief? Criminal Justice Student Dreams of Service

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Jordan Holliday (right)
Kent ISD
Jordan Holliday (right)

Jordan Holliday is on track to become a police officer with some training and an internship under his belt before he finishes high school

Host Joy Walczak speaks with Ben Hawkins, Instructor in the Criminal Justice Program at Kent Career Tech Center and Former Sergeant with the Grand Rapids Police Department, and with Grandville High School senior Jordan Holliday, a Criminal Justice Cadet at Kent Career Tech Center.



Joy Walczak: Welcome to the Your Dream is Our Dream podcast where we celebrate student success one dream at a time. This program is made possible by Kent ISD in partnership with WGVU. I'm Joy Walczak and I have with me today Jordan Holliday, a senior at Grandville High School and a cadet in the Criminal Justice program at Kent Career Tech Center. We also have with us Ben Hawkins. He’s an instructor in the Criminal Justice program at the Tech Center and has experience in the field as a police sergeant. Thanks to both of you for joining me today.

Jordan and Ben: Thank you.

Joy: Jordan, I want to get started with your dream, and we're so glad you're here to share it. What can you tell us about the program that you're part of at the Tech Center and what brought you to it.

Jordan Holliday: What the program is, is I go every single day after school, so I’m at my main school for about 3 hours, and then I'll switch over to the Kent ISD district building and then I will learn about criminal justice there. We do everything from traffic stops, building searches. We do any type of scenario that you can think of. And then we also do study a bit of law and take lectures in that class. And over all, it’s just a great experience because it really gives you a chance to see what you'll be doing in future If you go along with your career in law enforcement.

JW: So, you have an interest in a career in law enforcement. How did that start?

JH: That started kind of with, I'd say, recent events, because there's been so much divide with police officers. And I just want to reconnect the community by being a police officer in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

JW: That certainly sounds like a great goal. Ben, can you tell us a little bit about the program and Jordan's role in your program. And he's actually gone a bit above and beyond what you're doing at the Tech Center.

Ben Hawkins: Yes, he has. What we do in the program is we give our students a taste of law enforcement or criminal justice. As a first year instructor we go a deep dive into what law enforcement is like - traffic stops, building searches, field interrogations, law. You get certified in CPR and then they also do criminal investigations, forensics, that type of stuff. We have lots of guest speakers come in. We also we have the military come in. We have police officers. We have federal agents. We have a partnership with Homeland Security Investigations. We have other guest speakers come in and just about anybody – probation, parole, anybody that might be in that criminal justice umbrella, so that the students can see, interact with, and kind of get a taste of what criminal justice is like, to see which part they might like, or whether it's not for them.

JW: And your students are really cadets. They're actually playing the role of what a police officer or someone in law enforcement or related field might do in the actual field. And I know people like Jordan come to you with a lot of passion for this area. Tell me how you think this program inspires dreams like the one Jordan has.

BH: In this program they get kind of a behind-the-scenes look. You know, the students come in pretty green where they don't know what law enforcement's like. They see what they see on TV and in movies. and that's quite a bit different than what actually happens. Through this program, they're able to understand the law, and why law enforcement officers do what they do. They get put in those situations in those scenarios as high school juniors and seniors and experience that. And now they have a better understanding and much deeper dive into what it's like to be a law enforcement officer.

JW: They sure do. And Jordan, you're also experiencing this with a police department, the Grand Rapids Police Department. Can you tell me about your role as an Explorer?

JH: Yes. So, I interviewed for the Grand Rapids Police Department Explorer program and then you do like an application and a background investigation, and after that, they check you out and then you get the initiated into the program. You go every other Wednesday or you can choose after being in a year of the program if you want to join the state team and they compete at a higher level and they meet actually every week not just every other week. But for now I'm just doing the every other and we do different scenarios. We actually go to the range and it's just such a great way to get your foot in the department and you actually get to work with law enforcement officers. And you get really like accommodated in there, and you can grow much faster and market yourself. And then once you go and apply there, you should be ready. And that's what I really like about. I really want to be at Grand Rapids, like, where the best are.

JW: You like to be where the best are! I like the way you put that. Now, I've seen that you interact with the police chief. He calls you by name. He knows you and walks into a room and says, well, “Hey, Jordan! Glad to see you here”, which is pretty cool. You're building relationships. How do you think that's going to help you really make your dream come true?

JH: I think that’s going to help me definitely, like, a way to market yourself and show your true skills and what you have to offer to that Police Department. And I also think, like me marketing my skills at Grand Rapids, it shows that I will be ready when the time has come to hire and I will show them what skills I have for them and really with any other police department. It will show what skills I have, how I have set my level higher than others may have, and will show them that I'm ready and I’m going to be committed to them.

JW: You really sound ready, I think, and I’m pretty impressed by what you've done so far. I'd love to go back to your childhood. So, when you're like in kindergarten, second grade, 4th grade…what was your dream then and how does it compare to what your dream is now?

JH: I would think that maybe I would like to be, like, I know it sounds kind of crazy, like an astronaut or something. And then later on I was like, oh, maybe I'll be like a lawyer is something in law, but then really just changed because I know I want to work for my community. I really want to show them that I can make a difference. And I'm just like you and I can show the role of a leader and be a police officer and one day I can show other people and other kids that you can be just like me and you can achieve the goals that I want to achieve to and I will achieve.

JW: Ben, how does it make you feel to hear a student of yours talk about this program in this way and how what we're doing together with education is helping to make his dreams come true and really a reality?

BH: You love to see these success stories. The students that we have, even Jordan just from one year to the next, already starting as a Police Explorer, the Chief of Police knows him. I don't think you made that a big enough deal - that the Chief of Police in the second biggest city in Michigan knows Jordan by name. That is a huge deal and to see him succeed and see my other students succeed is awesome. I just got a text message from another student that graduated last year and she applied to be a corrections officer, excelled in that interview, and that's going to be her next step. And we've had other success stories throughout the program where they make their dreams come true. And just to be a little part of that, to push some in the right direction, to give them the skills necessary. It just fills your bucket.

JW: Now, you're coming to this from real-world experience. Can you share how that is shaping how you teach?

BH: Absolutely. When I started at KCTC, I was just outside of law enforcement for about 2 years. So everything's pretty fresh with me. I was up with the times and the technology and how law enforcement's changing since when I started until now. And now it's really the ‘grow your own’ is the mind set – it’s what they have. And that's why Jordan's the perfect candidate for this where he was born and raised in the city of Grand Rapids and now is going to school here and learning how to be the Explorer here in Grand Rapids. And so, then if and when he is hired at the Grand Rapids Police Department, that is their end goal, as well as all the other departments around here.

JW: And this is a program where students like Jordan are really in high demand and these positions are going to be so essential to our community and really building a stronger community together. So it's great to hear, Jordan, that that's why you're committed to doing this program. We really need officers like you in our future. Can you share a little bit more about why this is your dream and what really inspires you, maybe some role models you might have in your life?

JH: Yeah, I think that why this is my dream is because like ever since probably like two summers ago, I just really saw that the divide with police officers and the community, and just the recent events. And I just thought that this is just terrible. Like, my heart hurt for my community, my heart hurt for the police officers. And I just really want to build amends, and not just me. It's going to take everybody. It can take whoever is behind me as well. It's going take so much to mend this process. And how I'd like to apply and heal the community is by just showing them that we are people, too. We see you. We feel you. We really respect you, and everything I've learned so far with just even the scenarios, it’s just helping me have a realization of, I will be doing this in a few years and how I will need to do it over the years, and how I will react and how people react to me in the community.

JW: And Ben, why do you think it's important for educators such as yourself to really find out what our student’s dreams are, and then help those students to empower them to be able to achieve their dreams?

Ben: With students and their dreams, it's super important to know with their why. Why are they coming into our program - why they're here - and we start that out day one. I have them fill out a note card of why are you here, why taking this class, and I get a lot of different responses: because I saw this on the TV; because I want to help my community; because I want to be a police officer or whatever it might be. But it is so important to understand that dream so then we can get them in the right direction and having that dream, that goal and that carrot for them dangling for them to chase after is where we can help push them along and then give them the tools necessary to become successful and to achieve their dreams.

JW: Sounds like it's working in the program that you're creating and also working for students like Jordan. So, Jordan, what's next for you? What your next step?

JH: My next step for me, of course, I have to graduate from Grandville High school, and then after that, I'd be looking for probably a sponsorship through a police department, preferably Grand Rapids. And then once - a sponsorship is like when you get hired to go to the Police Academy and they pay for your Police Academy and get full-time benefits. It's an amazing opportunity like that. Or, I would like to go to community college here at GRCC. They have a year program for an Associates and a year for Police Academy, so either one of those two. But I just want to get on the street history as I can and start helping.

JW: Fantastic. Well, we wish both of you the best of luck. And I really want to thank both of you for talking with us today. And mostly dreaming big.

JH: It’s been honor.

BH: Happy to be here

JW: And thanks to everyone listening. I'm Joy Walczak. If you know a student who dreams big, we would love to share their story. Submit your idea and hear more dream stories at Kent ISD.org/yourdream. The Your Dream is Our Dream podcast is presented by Kent ISD in partnership with WGVU.


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