A initiative to introduce students at three Woodstock high schools to a career in law enforcement is gaining traction.
After nearly four years in existence, the Cherokee County School District Police Department internship program recently had one of its students take a step forward in the law enforcement field.
Jack Fulenwider III, a former intern of the program who graduated from Etowah High School in 2010, recently graduated from the police academy class at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth.
Fulenwider has joined the Cherokee Sheriff's Office as a deputy and is assigned to the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center.
Another Etowah graduate and intern, Jonathan Kissee, is now enrolled at Kennesaw State University. Kissee is majoring in criminal justice, and is also enrolled in Reinhardt University Police Academy.
School Police Chief Mark Kissel said the program started at Etowah during the 2009-10 school year by School Police Officer Richie Rich.
Students in the district's law and criminal justice career pathways are allowed to participate in the internship through what's called a work-based learning opportunity, Kissel added.
Students are able to spend part of the school day focusing on the career pathway they are pursuing.
The purpose, he said, is to enhance the curriculum by "providing a tailored and more focused experience for each of the student interns."
"More importantly, officers involved in the internship serve as mentors and role-models for the students," he added.
Since its inception, 13 students have participated in the program. Five students are participating this year, three of which are at Etowah, one at both River Ridge High School and Woodstock High School.
Fulenwider was one of two students Rich had in the first year. During the latter half of the school day, Fulenwider would learn all he could about the profession.
"We were the eyes and ears inside the school," he said of his role. He noted he'd also help direct traffic after school athletic events and also helped Rich bring in guest speakers for the classes.
When asked what attracted him to a career in law enforcement, Fulenwider, 21, said "it's in the blood." His father was an officer for a small city in Florida and is now an officer with the Cobb County Police Department.
He also said his grandfathers and several cousins went into the profession.
The program, he added, helped open up doors into the career path that one could say he was destined to take.
"The internship introduced me to a lot of people, especially in law enforcement," he said, adding he was already familiar with contacts in the Cherokee Sheriff's Office when he graduated.
Chief Kissel noted the program provides several benefits to students participating, such learning respect for the profession, providing self-confidence, enhancing leadership abilities and preparing them for their post-secondary education experience and careers.
The program, he added, is another example of the department's "community-policing philosophy."
"Working with students, school-based staff and others within the community to identify issues, problems and concerns evident in today’s society and to prepare a new generation of criminal justice professionals to meet the challenges of the future," he said.