GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Students at the Kent Career Technical Center are getting a firsthand look at what Homeland Security Investigations does in a program that’s the first of its kind in Michigan.
“I love law enforcement, especially working with Homeland. That’s just something that’s crazy. Like you always see Homeland on the TV, but it’s always nice working with people that can teach you a lot of things,” Comstock Park High School junior Victoria Glindo, who participates in KCTC’s criminal justice program, said.
KCTC offers trade and technical classes to juniors and seniors from schools in Kent County, including public, private and home school. From practicing interrogations and executing search warrants to learning about the judicial process, the 130 high school students in the criminal justice program are exposed to law enforcement before they even get to college.
This year, they’re being put to the test on another level as KCTC partners with HSI. Students participate in simulations that reflect enact real-world situations. HSI special agents play the suspects in real cases that were federally prosecuted and give students feedback as they practice.
“Where were you coming from and where were you going to? Get him back on track, don’t let him give you what you know is a fabricated story,” a special agent advised one student during a mock interrogation.
“It’s all kind of a game. You’re just trying to get the information out of them and they’re trying to hide it. But it’s just about outsmarting the subject and stuff like that,” Byron Center High School junior Gavin Bronkema told 24 Hour News 8.
This is the first year of the HSI partnership.
“It’s very dynamic because to bring in special agents … to work mentoring side-by-side along students just doesn’t happen,” KCTC criminal justice instructor Gregg Isenhoff said.
Isenhoff, who was a Kentwood Police officer for 12 years, says the federal component is a game changer.
“One thing that I was always missing because I came from a city police department … I understand how to do those investigations, but federal investigations are sometimes done a little bit differently than if you were working for the county, state or city,” Isenhoff said. “And it was just this discussion over. ‘Hey you know what, what can we do that’s unique that’s never been done before?'”
That’s where HSI came into play.
“When I first came in the first day, I gave a two-hour presentation on who HSI was and the kids came away like, ‘Holy cow, you guys do all of that,'” HSI Resident Agent in Charge Jeremy Pierczynski said.
Pierczynski says the program is opening the door for students to see the full gamut of what federal agencies do, a world they may not be as familiar with when they think about law enforcement.
“They’re in situations that will get their heart rate rising a little bit and it gets them thinking, it gets them stressing,” Pierczynski said.
Pierczynski says KCTC is a perfect platform to serve as a recruiting tool and get students interested in law enforcement at an early age.
“I think it’s one thing to teach it, stand there and say, ‘Well you can do X and you can Y and you can do this and you can do this,’ but it’s another thing to actually have to do it and actually have to hit the door, bang on the door and go in,” he said.
Many of the students say they’re ready to jump into the career after they graduate.
“Honestly, I want to do HSI, I want to do something like federal, like this big. So it’s nice to have kind of a background on it,” Kenowa Hills High School junior Taylor Buskard said.
“I’ve always been very interested in law enforcement and I’m definitely still sticking to it,” Kent Innovation High School junior Irene Trierweiler said.
“Each student now understands well what is it like to be a special agent, what is it like to be a detective, what’s it like to be a criminal science support unit crime scene investigator like CSI, so they get a facet of all these different directions now that they can take to help them develop where they want to go in their future,” Isenhoff said.
HSI plans to continue its partnership with KCTC. Next year, students will get college credit at Ferris State University while enrolled in the program.
High school students who are going to be juniors and seniors can apply on the criminal justice page of KCTC’s website.