HCC Police Academy graduates overcome life-changing challenges to reach success
Many months of grueling training resulted in two recent graduation ceremonies for nearly 50 cadets at the HCC Northeast Police Academy according to Johnny Sessums, Director of the Public Safety Institute at the college. Class coordinators and instructors, Vergil Ratliff and Sonny Goode noted that for most cadets, the training in the Texas Basic Peace Officer Licensing Course was life changing. All of the cadets faced challenges during the rigorous training but some faced formidable personal challenges. Vergil Ratliff recalled that “Cadets loss loved ones, endured relationship breakups and one was homeless for a while.” Speaking during one of the graduations, she told the compelling story about how police academy faculty helped a cadet who was sleeping in his car on the campus parking lot because he didn’t have any relatives or a place to stay in Houston. When security realized his plight and mentioned it to the faculty, Johnny Sessums invited the student to live with him and his wife until he could get his own place to live. When the cadet got on his feet, he wired flowers to the restaurant where the Sessums were celebrating their wedding anniversary. “Most of the students were unaware of the cadet’s plight and faculty members helped in various ways including buying gasoline for his car,” according to Ratliff. She explained that in the law enforcement profession there is no ‘I’ and that helping each other is part of the culture. “We bleed blue,” said Ratliff, who like other faculty members is a former police officer with many years of experience and training.
Sonny Goode is equally passionate about his role as class coordinator to help make sure cadets make it from the time they attend orientation until they graduate. Several of Goode’s cadets also overcame obstacles including one whose wife was tragically killed in an automobile accident, leaving him a single parent of a young child. “The entire class helped him emotionally and with a $1,100 check when many had their own financial issues,” according to Goode. Nevertheless, through hard work, each of the students completed the requirements and passed the Texas TCLEOSE test at 100%, which is required to become a licensed peace officer in the state. The cadets are now ready to seek jobs as police officers and security personnel in Houston and other cities in Texas.
The graduates looked sharp in their Class A dress uniforms as their family, friends and instructors congratulated them for their accomplishments. Houston Police Chief Charles A. McClelland Jr., was the speaker at one of the graduations and had powerful words for the cadets about the importance of their training. “When we commission law enforcement officers, give them a badge and swear them in as a police officer they are given more power and authority than any other public servant including the military.” Chief McClelland also told cadets that they join a special fraternity of men and women and must uphold the honor of the badge, saying “You must maintain integrity and keep the public’s trust because they have entrusted you to keep them safe and protected from harm.”
Sheriff Adrian Garcia spoke at the other graduation and was equally powerful with his message to the graduates. Sheriff Garcia reminded the cadets of their important role in our society and that their actions, good and bad, will be closely scrutinized by the public and by their employers. He said their actions will reflect not only upon themselves but their families, the department and law enforcement in general.
Each graduating class selected a representative who spoke about the extreme difficulty in the course both academic and physical and thanked the instructors and staff for all of their support during the training. During the training, some cadets lost weight and all learned better eating habits. Dr. Margaret Ford Fisher, President of HCC Northeast, commended the faculty for supporting the cadets throughout their journey. She noted that the HCC Public Safety Institute is among the top ten in the state of Texas. Dr. Ford Fisher congratulated and praised the cadets saying, “You have shown discipline and commitment and I thank you for choosing to serve our community.”