Criminal Justice Academy preps students for their future

Criminal Justice Academy students pose in their classroom below their emblem.

The Criminal Justice Academy, an in-house academy at Jupiter High School,  is available to all students zoned for Jupiter High and is geared towards students who have the desire to pursue a career in criminology, police work and law. 

“The academy is for anyone who wants to learn anything at all about police work, corrections or law, whether its state level, federal level or international level,” Rich Kelly, Criminal Justice Academy teacher, said. 

This academy is different from other classes because they participate in labs and work through real-life crime problems created by Kelly. 

“I think people should join the academy because it’s fun and you get to spend time outside doing hands-on activities rather than sitting in a classroom looking at a PowerPoint,” Lieutenant Olivia Mooney, junior, said. 

Kelly has over 32 years of background in police work and achievements and experiences in the medical, technological and criminal fields. 

Kelly is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Florida Police Academy and Vermont Police Academy. He also has a Master’s degree in Managing Information & Innovation Technology, a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Studies and two Associates degrees in Criminal Justice and Liberal Arts. 

He was a Detective Lieutenant for 21 years at the Burlington Vermont Police Department and Assistant Medical Examiner at Vermont Medical College for five years. 

He also spent five years teaching Emergency Medical Services at the University of Vermont Medical College, 17 years teaching Criminal Justice Program at Champlain College and is Nationally Certified as an American Board Medical Death Investigator. 

“Mr. Rich is one of my favorite teachers. He is a great instructor, teacher, friend and person,” Mooney said. 

The experience Kelly has allows him to teach his classes to the fullest while giving students an exceptional learning opportunity. 

“I joined because I wanted to learn more about crime [and] criminology at a deeper level, not just what you see in movies or TV shows,” Ciara Mansour, junior, said.

Students not only receive an education through effective teaching techniques, but they also develop lasting friendships over the length of the four-year program. 

“We have really special bonds, even if there are certain groups in the classroom we are all a family at the end of the day,” Mansour said. 

The academy has specific routines and activities they do weekly to ensure the curriculum is being taught and reinforced. 

“There are some things we do every week, such as uniform day on Wednesdays and inspections and drills once a week. Other days we are learning curriculum and on Fridays, we always have a ‘fun Friday,’ where we do a hands-on activity and if it’s not fun, we don’t do it,” Kelly said. 

Continuing to do these activities and routines over the course of four years can earn you higher ranks within the academy.

“Everyone comes in as a basic academy student. Your freshman year you can get promoted to Corporal rank, your sophomore year a Sergeant rank, your junior year a Lieutenant rank and your senior year a Captain rank,” Kelly said. 

The Criminal Justice Academy also has college resume benefits. Having these rankings shows that you have worked hard and are actively engaged in bettering the community.

“Being in the academy for four years shows commitment and that you have an idea for what path you want to take in college and they love to see leadership, especially getting promoted to a higher ranking,” Lieutenant Michael Messer, junior, said.

Members of this academy also get benefits other than on college resumes for their dedication and hard work.

“We get to go on a special senior trip all over Washington D.C. where we go to places like the Capitol building and the White House,” Mansour said. 

Overall, joining the academy has many benefits. It allows you to form meaningful friendships and to follow a path that is rich in enlightening and important material that you can take with you to college and beyond.  

“The process these kids have to go through is a little grueling and a little challenging, but we’re looking for leaders who are going to find broken people, broken problems and fix them,” Kelly said.