After months of hands-on learning, both mental and physical, graduates from the criminal justice program at Central Lakes College celebrated their success.
But they didn't celebrate for long.
With certificates in hand, the 26 future law enforcement professionals left the Brainerd campus May 31 to prepare for the biggest test of all -- the Peace Officer Standards and Training licensure exam.
Most planned to take the first one offered. Passage of that late-June test completes the student phase and gives each graduate the credentials suited for entry-level employment.
The Class of 2003 is the first to obtain both the clinical skills and academic degree on the campus in Brainerd. Past graduates have had to complete the last leg of state license exam preparation in programs based in Hibbing, Alexandria and other sites.
Area students save hundreds if not thousands of dollars in room and board expense by incorporating their hands-on training with the academic courses in a simultaneous package. The schedule shortened the amount of training time some needed in order to enter the workforce.
"We are happy with the arrangement and congratulate the Central Lakes program and students for making this initiative become a reality," said Steve Kovasik, Hibbing Community College coordinator. He attended the recent graduation ceremony in Brainerd along with about 150 friends and relatives of the graduating students.
"Law enforcement is a critical profession and Minnesota needs you well-trained, educated people in service to the citizens," Kovasik said.
Terry Fairbanks, coordinator of the criminal justice program at CLC, thanked instructors and the students. He presented certificates of appreciation to Pat Sergott, chief of police in Pine River and a veteran trainer, and Rick Kangas, a CLC counselor and deputy sheriff for Crow Wing County who served as clinical site coordinator.
Student awards went to the following:
* Luke Hamilton, Brainerd, who earned the Top Student Award for his consistently high grades.
* Troy Nash, Brainerd, who received the Top Performance Award as voted by fellow students.
* Eric Stangler, Albany, who garnered Top Gun honors for marksmanship, missing just six times in 1,000 rounds of target fire in a variety of weather conditions.
The Class of 2003 also included:
Brainerd -- Travis Collette, Ed Holmes, James Paschelke, and Melynda Ringstrom.
Troy Nash, Brainerd, was voted the Top Performer by classmates in the law enforcement skills training program at Central Lakes College. He is shown questioning a make-believe shop owner who has been burglarized, portrayed by Jay Lorch, a Crosslake police officer. Students were tested in driving, defensive tactics, patrol procedures, firearms and more.
Baxter -- Joy Larson.
Backus -- Brian Sewall and Joseph Glazier.
Cushing -- Jacob Nygren.
Fort Ripley -- Cody Peterson.
Deerwood -- Mark Taylor.
Little Falls -- Jonathon West and Josh Ebert.
Hillman -- Stacy Nicholas and Ryan Sullivan.
Merrifield -- Chad Bouc.
Motley -- Donnell Kist.
Pequot Lakes -- Mark Johnson.
Pillager -- John Ray and Al Yoder.
Ottertail -- Adam Murdock.
Richville -- Josh Lund.
Sebeka -- Gerald Pettit.
Wadena -- Randy Athmann.
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