A total of 23 cadets received certificates of completion in basic peace officer training during the fall 2013 graduation ceremony for the Middle Rio Grande Law Enforcement Academy at SWTJC. The ceremony was held Friday, Dec. 6, in the Tate Auditorium on the SWTJC Uvalde campus.
Charlie Class 2013graduates include Reymundo Balderas, Luis R. Benavidez, Andrew Cantu, Michael Anthony Cantu, Alfredo Castañeda, III, Abraham Chapa, Albaro Duran, Jr., Ismael Duran, Robert Fields, Cecilia Flores, Cristina Flores and Carmelo Gonzales III.
Other members of the fall 2013 graduating class are Michael Angelo Jimenez, Renato Russell Lualemaga, Juan Antonio Martinez, Jr., Javier R. Medrano, Jr., Ruperto Peña III, Francisco Picazo III, Marcos S. Reyes-Ruiz, Jose J. Rivera, Jose Rodriguez, Felix Rubio and Hoshi Segura. LARGE GROUP PHOTO
Academy instructor Kara Lands was master of ceremonies and delivered the invocation to a packed auditorium of graduates, instructors, family and friends.
SWTJC President Dr. Hector E. Gonzales welcomed guests and congratulated this fall's graduating class. "You have much to be proud of today," Gonzales said. "You have studied and trained and now you are ready for the workforce."
Gonzales encouraged graduates to continue pursuing their education. "You have proven you have the smarts, but you are going to need higher degrees and certifications to move into those management and supervisor positions," he said. "So, consider this your first step in your higher education."
Academy coordinator Mike Leavene followed Gonzales to the podium and highlighted accomplishments of this year's class and the academy as a whole. According to Leavene, since 2008, the Middle Rio Grande Law Enforcement Academy has had a 100% first-time pass rate on the state licensing exam, the best in the state.
Charlie Class 2013 graduates attained a 86.7 average on the state exam, compared to the state average of 78. Six of this year's graduates scored above 90 on the state licensing exam of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE).
"It was a long, challenging and eventful 18 weeks and most of these graduates found out there is much more to police work than what they perceived coming in," Leavene said. "They needed plenty of encouragement along the way and there is no doubt that the support of family and friends was a big key to the success of this class. We thank you for that."
Leavene noted that the success of the academy over the past five years has made it a prime recruiting place for area and regional law enforcement agencies. "We have recruiters from New Mexico and all over the state of Texas contacting us and I'm proud to say that 10 of this fall's graduates already have jobs and will be starting work next week," he said.
Guest speaker at the graduation was Special Agent Mike Tamez of the Kingsville Specialized Crimes & Narcotics Task Force.
"Today, you begin a life of selfless service to others," Tamez told the graduates. "Engage the public with love and compassion. Be kind to those you protect but always have a plan to protect yourself and others from the violent criminals you will undoubtedly come in contact with."
Tamez emphasized the need to continue their training each and every day on the job. "Always strive to be more technically and tactically proficient. Train and train and train, both physically and mentally, and never let your guard down," he said.
Class president Renato Russell Lualemaga also spoke during the recent ceremony. "I think most of the class would agree this has been the longest and fastest 18 weeks ever," Lualemaga said. "We made lots of sacrifices, but we had great instructors who shared their knowledge and were very passionate about law enforcement. I also want to thank our families for all the sacrifices they made for us."
Prior to the presentation of certificates, top graduates were recognized for excelling in various aspects of the academy. Class valedictorian and high qualifier in firearms was Robert E. Fields, while Marcos S. Reyes-Ruiz had the high score on the state exam.
Cristina Flores had the high qualification score on the driving course and Jose Rodriguez was recognized for having the high qualification score in mechanics of arrest. Cecilia Flores and Felix Rubio received awards for best in physical fitness.
Following the presentation of awards, academy administrative assistant Teresa H. Zamarripa read the names of all graduates. SWTJC President Gonzales, along with academy coordinator Leavene and instructor Lands assisted in the presentation of certificates of completion to all members of the class.
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