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New London — With a goal of providing a school-to-career avenue for students interested in pursuing jobs in firefighting, policing or emergency medical services, school and city officials will today announce the formation of a public safety academy at New London High School.
The city's fire and police departments will be able to recruit talented New London teenagers from the academy, which could help advance their goal of more accurately reflecting the community they serve.
"This partnership is a home run for our city and students," Principal William "Tommy" Thompson III said. "It will provide an opportunity for our students to give back to their community, and will not only open doors but provide students that attend New London High School with an unmatched competitive advantage."
Students in the elective program will receive academic instruction and professional training from high school teachers, police officers, firefighters and EMTs. The four-year program will be designed so that students will leave high school qualified to seek employment in the field.
"Students enrolled in the program will learn what is necessary to have a career in public safety and propel them into earning certifications which will enable them to get jobs when they graduate," Fire Chief Henry E. Kydd Jr. said.
Some students may also be able to earn college credits through dual-enrollment courses at Three Rivers Community College.
School and city officials will announce the establishment of the academy at 1 p.m. today at the high school. The program will be phased in, beginning with a class of 25 students this fall.
"I'm very excited about it, the academy is going to be a great thing for our kids," Board of Education President Margaret Mary Curtin said. "Education is really changing for the better in the city of New London."
While a broad objective of the program is to cultivate interest in public safety careers, city officials said they hope graduates will seek jobs here in New London and make the city's departments more diverse.
"One of our goals is to get the students from the New London area to become firefighters, police officers, dispatchers, and EMTs in our departments," Kydd said. "And the overall goal is that the demographics of the city of New London will be reflected in our different departments."
State Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, said the genesis of the academy came "after working with city officials to find a way to help our young men and women, especially minorities, who are interested in serving our city."
Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard said he expects the program will allow the police department to better interact with and engage the city's teenagers.
"A vital component of community policing involves working hands on with the youth in our communities," Reichard said in a statement. "Active involvement in a public safety academy gives police officers access to high school aged youth in a positive manner, encouraging them to consider careers in the public safety field."
Interested students will have to apply for admission to the academy, which will have a full four-year curriculum that the students will complete in addition to their regular schoolwork.
And as the city evolves into an all-magnet-school district, the academy could be seamlessly integrated into the leadership and public service magnet pathway, which will focus on the law enforcement, teaching, military and social service fields.
"This public safety academy will be a strong component of our conversion to an all-magnet school district, which will include the conversion of New London High School into a regional public service high school," Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said in a statement.
Already, New London High School offers a Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program and a criminal justice course taught in part by Max Bertsch, a New London police officer. The public safety academy will build off those programs, Thompson said.
"The bones are already there," he said. "What we're looking to do is capitalize on the success we're having and enhance what we're offering students within New London High School."