COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Chad Spence (right), the instructor for St. Joseph County Career and Technical Education’s public safety program, presents on the program and what it does to the St. Joseph County ISD’s Board of Education Monday, Oct. 17. Flanking him are (from left to right) Jeremiah Delhomme, Jace Fuller and Matthew Jacobs, members of the first class of the program.

ISD highlights public safety program

CENTREVILLE — One of the two new Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in the county was highlighted for the first time at the Monday, Oct. 17 St. Joseph County ISD meeting.

Instructors and students from CTE’s Public Safety program stopped by the meeting to talk about the benefits of the program and how things have been going so far, about a month into the school year. The program, along with a second health science class, was added to CTE’s roster of 14 programs beginning in the 2022-23 school year.

Chad Spence, who previously worked as a Detective Sergeant with the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department, is the instructor for the course. He said the students in his class are “pioneers” for being the first class in the program, and that it was something that can’t be taken away from them.

“I tell them every day, this program isn’t about me, it’s about them,” Spence said. “We’re molding them into good public safety servants: fire, police, EMS.”

Spence said the students have been doing great work so far, making note of their fingerprinting work, which were sent to both the sheriff’s department and Michigan State Police.

“Those are lab-quality prints that they did. That’s the first thing we did,” Spence said. “We sent those to the Michigan State Police crime lab and had an analysis done for comparison.”

Spence said he has “a lot of ideas” for the program moving forward, and said he was excited for what’s to come with the program.

“These are fine young men we have here, and we have fine young women in our class also,” Spence said. “It’s exciting seeing these light bulbs going off all over the room.”

Three of the students from the class were in attendance along with Spence at the meeting, and discussed their reasoning for joining up with the program and how the class is going for them so far. Matthew Jacobs, a junior, said he is “really happy with what we’ve done so far” in the program.

“As someone that’s always grown up wanting to be a police officer, watching police cars flying by my house, or doing this, I’ve found it very inspiring,” Jacobs said. “A lot of things we’re doing, whether it’s making presentations or going out and practicing traffic stops, it’s definitely a life-changing experience that I think everyone should get to do. I don’t think people realize how much work is put into being police, fire, or EMS; they do a lot for our community, so I wish everyone could be able to experience what it’s like.”

Jace Fuller, another junior in the class, said he wanted to be a police officer because of positive experiences he had with police officers growing up, which was the reason he joined up with the class.

“Ever since then, I’ve always had a soft side for law enforcement,” Fuller said.

Jeremiah Delhomme, another junior, said he always liked law enforcement, but the class has changed his perspective on what happens behind the scenes.

“I’m also doing the Explorers program in Sturgis, so doing these two classes have really changed my mindset,” Delhomme said. “It’s very, very inspiring.”

Spence said the program is looking to collaborate with other programs. For example, he wants to collaborate with the health sciences program to facilitate CPR and first aid training, as well as collaborating with another program to create evidence for training. Some of that collaboration has already occurred, with Spence noting that with the help of the marketing and graphic design programs, the students created their own logo for the class.

Collaboration has also occurred with Centreville Public Schools, where Spence said the students help with security checks around the junior/senior high school building daily, checking to make sure there aren’t doors propped open or other security risks, with a report turned over to school administration. Those checks have actually been helpful in at least one situation, Spence said.

“We were walking between the elementary and the high school, and there was a car parked with a young lady standing outside with a backpack, and she seemed a little irritated, but we walked by and said hi,” Spence said. “We walk around, and there were two sheriff’s cars sitting there, and I know them, so I introduce them to the students. I then ask what they’re doing there, and they said they were looking for a female; she keeps calling 911 and is causing problems. I knew right away where she was, and I’m like, these fine students could show you where she’s at, so they were able to assist the sheriff’s department with locating her.

“The staff at Centreville Public Schools is happy with them, and they thank them every day for making them safe.”

Overall, Spence said he’s proud of his students and can’t wait to see who they become.

“I’m happy to be here, but I’m more happy to be here with these students, and hopefully they all go through this path and enjoy a good career in public safety,” Spence said.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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