OCEAN TOWNSHIP – For the last week, 54 Ocean Township children entering grades 4 to 6 learned what it meant to work hard together. Their Junior Police Academy graduation ceremony tonight includes a speech from their class leader, Sergeant Chris Guider.
At all of 12 years old, Guider already seems to understand military etiquette. He has no problem extending his hand to introduce himself. His mannerisms are respectful beyond his young age.
“My job is to keep everyone in line,” says the young recruit in explaining his duties. “I get them to fill in and fill out. I lead them in and out of the classroom.”
This isn’t Guider’s first experience with the academy. It’s actually his third, since 2017. He says one of his favorite parts of the program is the intense physical training. He sees it as helpful for his future.
“I plan to go to a four-year college for criminal justice,” says Guider. “I then want to become a military police officer. I come from a family of marines.”
During today’s program at the academy, the participants rallied against one another in a Spartan Challenge. The recruits divided into teams called Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. The competition was fierce.
“They come in here as individuals,” shared Ocean Township Police Chief Michael Rogalski. “We want them to realize that they are part of a team and that their actions affect others as well.”
The theme throughout the academy focuses on support. Children cheer each other on through physical challenges. Police officers encourage the participants with a “can do” approach.
“We teach them that when they work hard, they are all rewarded,” said Rogalski. “We want them to know that one person’s actions can affect another.”
Full Agenda for Junior Police Academy
The Ocean Township Junior Police Academy started eight years ago with just 21 recruits. A few years ago, the numbers went up to 100.
According to Chief Rogalski, he and the other academy leaders decided it was too many kids. “We wanted to make sure the officers got to know them all.”
Several officers devote their time to working with the children. Chief Rogalski was on hand today, together with Lieutenant Scott Murphy, Detective Jeremy Samuel, DARE Officer and Patrolman Michael Cicero, Patrolman Robert Bleichner, and Patrolman Kyle Pimm.
Outside agencies came in during the week to give presentations. Both the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department and the Ocean County Department of Corrections showed students how dogs are used in law enforcement.
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service, New Jersey State Police, Ocean County SWAT and New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife all contributed to training efforts.
Academy Graduate Returns as a Junior Instructor
Megan Campanile, 15 and a sophomore at Southern Regional High School completed three years at the academy. She loved it so much that she was thrilled when she was accepted a second time as a junior instructor for the program.
“I’ve always wanted to be a police officer, so it’s a big part of my life,” said Campanile. “I like teaching the kids teamwork and how to hold each other up. I help them push their own limits and feel good about themselves.”
Campanile already works as an auxiliary member of the Township’s First Aid Squad. Several members of her family have worked in law enforcement, including her father, a retired police officer.
Lessons learned at the Junior Police Academy differ from those in regular classrooms. Those who participated are well on the path to becoming part of tomorrow’s success stories.
Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at email@example.com.