SOMERS, N.Y. - Somers High School student Thomas Parisi was among 70 high school students to get a comprehensive look into the day-to-day operations of the FBI the week of July 17 through the Teen/Youth Academy offered by the FBI’s Community Outreach program.

Students are given several presentations covering topics like terrorism, cyber security, public corruption, polygraph exams, evidence response and SWAT. An awards ceremony concludes the week.

Through the experience, students gain a better understanding of the FBI’s operations and the various career paths and roles associated with the agency’s activity.

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Admission to the program was based upon the applicant’s grades, school activities and community involvement, said Matt Parisi, Thomas’ father. The application included an essay based on his son’s review of an FBI website and video that educated teens about the dangers of opioid abuse. Aside from travel costs, admission to the academy was free.

Parisi was recommended for the program by Charlie Blaisdell, a colleague of his father’s and at Bleakley Platt & Schmidt, LLP, in White Plains. 

“At 101 years old, Mr. Blaisdell is one of the oldest living former FBI agents in the country,” Matt Parisi said. “Mr. Blaisdell was an FBI field agent during World War II and, among other interesting and storied career highlights, participated in the arrest of infamous Nazi spy, Erich Gimpel, at a Times Square newsstand on New Year’s Eve in 1943. 

Thomas Parisi said navigating public transit to get to the field office by himself every day was an adventure in itself, but his favorite part of the experience was getting a behind-the-scenes look at some of the FBI’s surveillance, and hearing from agents about their real-life adventures. He said there were monitors streaming live feeds from as close as the field office’s parking lot, to locations across the globe.

“They were focusing on guys they were trying to track down,” Thomas Parisi said.

He said the surveillance cameras are just one in a series of tools used by the FBI to monitor the activity of people engaging in illegal affairs like drug trafficking. He said he learned how surveillance was used in conjunction with other tools to build a case against, and ultimately arrest, a group of drug dealers.

“They tracked them down with undercover agents and tracked them with drones and stuff,” Parisi explained.” They’re all in jail now.”

Parisi said those stories and seeing the drug-sniffing dogs were among his favorite aspects of the week, and that the immersive nature of the course held his attention. Free pizza for lunch was an added bonus.

His parents were happy that he participated as well.

“I think it’s nice to expose them to something that they wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to,” said Laura Parisi, Thomas’ mom. “I think it definitely raised an interest level in something he may not have thought of before, and I think it’s important to recognize how law enforcement works, how difficult it can be and how it takes different people from various backgrounds to work together to solve problems.”

For more information about the program, visit fbi.gov.