SPARTA, NJ – It was a packed house in the patio room at the Mohawk House on Friday afternoon for the Junior Police Academy graduation ceremony.  The more than 80 fifth through eighth grade participants spilled outside for their lunch before the awards were handed out.

Program organizer Lt. John Lamon was the master of ceremony for the event.  Since taking over the Junior Police Academy three years ago, it has grown each year from 30 participants to more than 80 this year.

Senator Steve Oroho, Freeholder Josh Hertzberg, township manager Bill Close and police chief Neil Spidaletto each welcomed the crowd and addressed the participants.

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Hertzberg said, “This community is special because of activities like this.  This is how relationships get built.”

Close agreed, “This is a great example of community policing,” he said commending the senior staff for time spend making it a popular event. He also thanked the parents for allowing their children to attend.

The chief also thanked the personnel especially for their “creativity to make the program what it is,” highlighting Lamon for his leadership in the program.

Spidaletto said he was happy to see the officers “starting relationship with the youth, that will continue as they grow.”

To the children Oroho said, “Now you have recognition of how important and how dangerous the job these police officers do.” 

During the obstacle course at the middle school officers Taylor May and Brian Porter talked with the participants about continuing to foster a relationship with the police.  After an exhaustive discussion about donuts, they encouraged the children “if you see us around say hi.  If you need anything give us a call or stop by.”

They told the participants this would be especially true as they get older and experience different things.  “Make us proud,” May said.

“This is not a boot camp,” Lamon told the crowd at the graduation. “I think they learned a lot in a short time.”

“I’m big on promoting creativity,” Lamon said, recognizing three participants for their creative writing. “Their thought process was amazing.”

He read Shannon Kelly’s story created on a “madlibs” style templet.  He commended Nicolas Vasques and Kayla Shamp for their work as well.

Lamon also had Peighton Spidaletto read her “impressive” crime scene analysis.

Ava Miller was commended for the Crime Scene Analysis.  As Lamon gave her a plaque he commented he expected to see her as a detective in the future.

“As we grow in numbers, everything else grows,” Lamon said. Participants had new and expanded experiences this year.

Team 8 members Brooke, Jonathan and Cole said they had two mock crime scenes for the participants to learn investigative techniques, two escape rooms, an airsoft shoot room with zombie targets and outdoor range, fingerprinting station and an obstacle course. 

Team 6 won the tug of war competition.

They also had special visitors.  New Jersey State Police bomb squad brought two robots.  The officer explained what it means to be one of 12 members of the New Jersey State Police bomb squad. He had a volunteer try on part of the 96-pound bomb suit, as he passes around the helmet for everyone to examine.

A participant’s father, a sergeant with the Paterson police force brought two motorcycles for the participants to explore.  They also gave a riding demonstration, Lamon said.

Always popular with the children, the Atlantic Health helicopter touched down in the field behind the school.   

Lamon said three working dogs that visited were a hit.  The bloodhound tracking dog named Nutmeg showed off her skills.  Two volunteers hid on the middle school campus and the two cadaver dogs sniffed them out according to Lamon. 

The Center for Prevention brought their Fatal Vision glasses to give the participants a safe perspective on what it is like when the brain is impaired by drugs or alcohol. 

The overall consensus was that the airsoft guns were the favorite activity.

At the graduation Lamon handed out trophies to the top three marksmen in each grade. 

  • Fifth Grade- first, second and third place: Jake Alliegro, Quinn Fleischman, Jonathan Palmer
  • Sixth Grade:  Alyssa Wainwright, Kane Vanee, Sophie Wilson
  • Seventh Grade: Elliot Trento, Cada Masternak, Joey Tomaro,
  • Eighth Grade: Brayden Dabrowski, Rocco Gorvan, Ben Dykstra

Lamon recognized the Junior Instructors for their “invaluable help” during the week.  Having previously attended the Junior Police Academy they wanted to come back to help.

Junior Instructors: James Phillips, Owen Hassloch, Anya Corrato, Gaiw Denmead, Justin Rodriguez.

Each squad was called up to receive a certificate from the Sparta Police Department and from Oroho, as well as a medal.

Squad One: Connor Jones, Ryan Grycuk, Christian Mazzarella, Liam Hassloch, Beck Hassloch, Brayden Dabrowski, Vincent Gueci, Gavin Marshall, Hollis Hofer, Victoria Sucich

Squad Two: Hayden Denmead, Robbie Ambrosino, Jack Wittenmeier, Ryan Slahor, Paul Cernek, Tucker Mowbray, Matthew Stites, Nick Wilson, Sophie Wilson

Squad Three: Aiden Viggiano, Dylan Furtado, John Finley, Shannon Kelly, Chase Thonus, Faithh Kelly, Kane Vance, Elliot Trento, Enzo Greco

Squad Four: Zachary Purchla, Matthew Torres, David Baker, Jack Remick, Alyssa Wainwright, John Groff, Dylan Asher, Ava Miller, Logan Scarpa

Squad Five: Peighton Spidaletto, Quinn Fleischman, Caden Masternak, Rocco Gorvan, Brandon Selander, Daniel Reilly, Ethan Fancher, Riley Richardson, George Flint, Ryley Marshall

Squad Six: Justin Finley, Edward Muldoon, Andrew Gamella, Molly Tomko, Kylie MacDonald, Joey Tomaro, Jake Alliegro, Ethan Corrado, Sean DeVincentis

Squad Seven: Cole Mazzarella, Roberto Vasquez, Nicholas Vasquez, Joseph Leppert, Tyler MacKerley, Jaxon Elig, Jacob Fryer, Kaitlyn Healey, Kayla Sharp, Scott Burgin

Squad Eight: Jayden Rodriquez, Benjamin Dykstra, Jonathan Palmer, Isabella Kasko, Brooke Selander, Christian Layman, Stephen Palmer, Cole Roddy

Lamon thanked Steve Scro for his support as well as the location for the graduation ceremony.  He thanked Alan Maclarley with Byram Bus who together with Scro provided the shirts and hats.  Econo-Pak Raul Wiebel was also a sponsor of the program, Lamon said.