Local jail launches internship program to inspire careers in law enforcement

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 7:04 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A first-of-its-kind internship program has emerged in Central Texas for students interested in a career in law enforcement.

Just like student-athletes do for college, Wednesday was a career signing day at Connally High School where students who get picked for paid internships signed with various companies on their path to employment.

“It is a priority for Connally High School to ensure that all students have work based learning opportunities in their chosen career paths,” said Sara Rudd, College and Career Readiness Coordinator and Intern Liaison for CISD. “When our students enter high school they choose an endorsement which aligns with the courses they take at the school, and each of the students are in a pathway of classes that they take, and the final course ends in an internship opportunity.”

For the first time ever, Connally ISD has entered into an internship partnership with the McLennan County Jail.

“It’s unique to have interns in the jail and interns in law enforcement,” said Maj. Ricky Armstrong, Jail Administrator.

Unique and formative, the jail head says.

“We’re able to teach them and mold them, and teach them the right way to do things in law enforcement, he said. “My hope is that they stay and want to come to work for us when they graduate high school, we already know who they are, how they work, their work ethic, and if they want a job they can apply and come to work for us full-time making $40,000 a year right out of high school, not too bad.”

Along with Armstrong, Sheriff Parnell McNamara believes offering the program will be a valuable tool for recruitment.

”I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for young people to be exposed to this side of law enforcement, corrections, it’s a very, very important part of law enforcement,”said McNamara. “Hopefully down the line some of these young people that come in as interns will want to be employees of the Sheriff’s Office, and so we can pick up some real good talent, some good people that way.”

The interns had to be at least 18, get parental approval and pass a background check to qualify for the program.

The four members of the jail’s inaugural intern class include Tiresa Cruz, Felicity Dickens, Jeremiah Weaver and Dalvin Rubio.

Cruz, 18 and a senior at Connally High, says she jumped at the chance to be part of MCSO’s pilot internship program.

“I immediately was ready for the opportunity because this is a career path I’m already thinking about joining because it just fascinated me with the whole ‘putting bad guys away’, and making sure the world is a safer place for everyone,” said Cruz. “It’s a little bit scary, but I get to go home knowing that I had an effect on the world.”

Eventually, Cruz wants to pursue criminal psychology, and she believes this internship will be a good foundation.

“I’m hoping to gain experience, as well as different views of what’s going on inside as well as outside the jail,” she said.

County Commissioners approved for the interns to be paid $12 an hour to learn and help out in the jail.

“It’s a big bonus but I’m just happy to have the opportunity to learn more about the jail,” said Cruz.

Armstrong says they’ll spend most of their time in booking doing paperwork and answering phones, will always be supervised by a staffer, and will never be left alone with an inmate.

This will also be the first year of partnership between CISD and Harp Design Co, which selected interns Cody Tarver and Mario Salas.

CISD has been partnering with Holt Cat for six years to offer internships; the latest will go to Sergio Renteria and Gerardo Alvarado.

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