TEWKSBURY – Police Chief Ryan Columbus and Superintendent Brenda Theriault-Regan are pleased to share that Tewksbury Police Department and Tewksbury Public Schools are collaborating to offer students an introduction to the field of criminal justice through elective classes at Tewksbury Memorial High School.
Currently, about 20 juniors and seniors are taking Introduction to Criminal Justice, which provides an illuminating, hands-on look at the daily work of law enforcement. Students learn how officers process crime scenes and interview witnesses. They also gain an understanding of both physical fitness requirements and law.
The collaboration is aimed at building a solid partnership with the Tewksbury Police Department, thus creating a pathway to law enforcement careers for students in Tewksbury Public Schools who believe they may be interested in being a police officer, first responder, or in other law-related careers. It also assists law enforcement, which faces a local and nationwide recruiting crunch.
“We know we need to do a better job of connecting kids to real-life careers, so we’re committed to providing applied learning experiences and all kinds of career learning opportunities,” said Superintendent Theriault-Regan. “This kind of engaging, hands-on learning can help students realize that this is a career field that they would enjoy pursuing, or it can help them realize if it’s not. At the end of the day, we need to give our students more opportunities to investigate and try out possible career paths.”
The Tewksbury Police Department prioritizes maintaining and building a partnership between police and the community, and this partnership with Tewksbury Public Schools furthers that goal while strengthening schools as well.
“This is about building a partnership with the schools and the community. We need to bridge the gap about what is perceived that we do and what we actually do in the community. We are also building relationships with young people. We need to always continue to be approachable in the community, and if we can teach this to young people, they will always have this as something they learned no matter where they end up in life,” said Chief Columbus. “This idea was based off a citizen academy model, and we took it from there. Having great partners in the school, we were able to build a program that to my knowledge is the first of its kind.”
Superintendent Theriault-Regan and School Resource Officer James Ryser said the idea for the classes sprang from a longtime relationship between schools and police. For years, police have hosted interns from the high school, but found the prior internship experience was not the thorough learning experience both organizations were striving to offer.
“This way, the classes will be able to help identify the motivated kids who enjoyed the course work and who are now interested in moving forward with an internship,” said Superintendent Theriault-Regan.
Superintendent Theriault-Regan said administrators are hoping to expand applied learning opportunities like this to younger age groups as well. Tewksbury Public Schools are also seeking to partner with community leaders in an effort to form community and college partnerships, with a goal of dual enrollment courses that can earn students early college credits.