DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — The Delray Beach Police Department is growing its own police officers through a partnership with Atlantic Community High School.
The school's criminal justice academy prepares students for a career in law enforcement. More than two dozen students have joined the department over the years.
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Criminal justice academy cadets know they need to get every step right.
Uniform checks begin every class at Atlantic Community High School. Major Alair Thomas is their leader, the highest ranking student in the academy.
"I love the law," Thomas said.
Thomas has always wanted to be a police officer. The academy is giving him the opportunity to learn the in's and out's of the profession before he graduates high school.
"I love the police department. I believe, growing up in Delray, it would be a good opportunity in the future to come back and serve the community, because I'm a community person," Thomas said.
And that's the goal of the program. Turn these passionate students into Delray's finest.
"I'm seeing these kids come in and I'm the one allowed to teach them and train them so they can basically take over my position as a police officer on the road," said Delray Beach police officer Robin Moschette.
Moschette traded her days in a patrol car for time in the classroom, teaching and training the next generation of police officers.
"It's kind of like a legacy you get to leave behind," Moschette said.
Through the four-year program, students learn about the law, defensive tactics, forensics, writing tickets, and more.
It's one of more than 300 Choice and Career Academy programs across the School District of Palm Beach County. Students can earn a community service officer certificate, allowing them to get a job as civilian employee right after graduation before going through the police academy to become a sworn officer.
"I trained one of the students who was here when I was on road patrol," Moschette said. "She was amazing. She knew how to do traffic stops. She knew how to do accident reports."
That student is now Delray Beach police officer Liz Stroud.
"I already knew the basics of how to handle a call," Stroud said. "It was just implementing it into real life that was like, OK, this is it."
Stroud is grateful for her time in the academy getting her ready for her dream job.
"It helped a lot, mainly because the academy is based in the city," Stroud said. "They work so closely with the police department. So I got to know command staff here. I got to know the officers. They helped me out. It wasn't like I was coming to something that was very nerve-wracking where I didn't know anybody. I knew everybody. They were rooting for me."
Back in school, Moschette will continue rooting for these students.
"You kind of get an attachment with these kids on more of an emotional and a mom level," Moschette said.
Beaming with pride for their success.
There are criminal justice academy programs at several other Palm Beach County high schools.
If your child is interested in any of the school district's Choice and Career Academy programs, the application window for next school year will open on Nov. 1. For more information, click here.