By Cindy Zomar, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Asked whether running the August session of the Marlborough Junior Police Academy was a bit easier than the first one in June, Officer Borden Wicks quickly responded, “Selfishly speaking, it was easier on US because we know more about how long different classes and presentations take, and how long the attention span is for an eleven year old kid. The cadets were very committed and had great attitudes.”
Community Officers Wicks and Keith Moro initially broached the idea of a youth academy to Chief David Giorgi who quickly offered the support of the department, and two sessions were planned, accepting a total of 60 rising seventh grade students. From proper procedures and safety to physical training and discipline, some of the topics covered included Defensive Tactics, Firearm Safety, Crime Scene Analysis, Drug Recognition, CPR, MILO Simulation Training, and Public Speaking. Highlights included a Massachusetts State Police Air Wing helicopter landing on the Whitcomb Middle School field, an inflatable obstacle course, a session with Officer Robert Bonina, in his role as the CEMLAC (Central Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council) SWAT Team Leader, and a K9 demonstration.
All K9 units across the commonwealth are also available to the SWAT team, and the cadets watched in awe as K9 Zita from the Grafton Police Department, with her handler Officer Joseph Coggans, demonstrated searching for an object, tracking, and apprehending an individual. Webster Officer Aaron Suss had explained that these dogs are specifically bred for their intelligence, strength and durability and are very high-energy. He let K9 Zita and Coggans track him, and then showed how she can protect her human partner and bring down a suspect on command.
Another special guest was Marlborough resident Kathy Leonard whose son, Jonathan Testa, tragically died of an overdose in 2014. Leonard has devoted herself to educating young students about the danger of drugs and urged the cadets to just never start experimenting.
Father Greg Christakos from Marlborough’s Greek Orthodox church was glad that his daughter, Vaia, had joined the class.
“She is home-schooled, so she really didn’t even know anyone at first, but she wants to be a police officer,” he said. “As I see it, this was a great way to teach civic responsibility, other great values, and of course, teamwork.”
Jodi Russell commented that it had been her decision to have her son, Owen, apply for the program, but that he very quickly bought into it, and loved the week. “He came home with a smile on his face every day…well, except after running the mile that first day, “ she laughed.
Parents and guests watched proudly as Class 1902 marched in cadence to the stage at the Whitcomb School for graduation. Awards were presented to Owen Russell, the Top Shot on the target shooting; to Derek Pedreros, Ella Hobin and Vaia Christakos as the best in Physical Training; to Andrew Ruiz as the best Public Speaker; and to Luis Fernando Vallejo Salem as the Most Improved Cadet.
Captain Paul Valianti congratulated the cadets and addressed the parents as he said, “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to interact with your children in a very positive manner. And to the cadets, don’t ever stop working hard and doing your best.”