Criminal Justice grad won’t give up on dream to join LAPD
“It’s exciting…and nerve-wracking,” says Alexander Ramos of the application process that each day brings him a little closer to his dream of becoming a police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The medical exam is in September, next is psychological testing, then he gets his date to enter the police academy.
This is something Alexander has wanted for as long as he can remember, growing up in L.A. and watching the intensity of the LAPD in his crime-ridden community. He knew his decisions would have life-long consequences. “My parents had it rough and told us that if you want something in life, you have to push yourself and make it happen,” says Alexander.
Any career plans he might have had to be one of the good-guys were put on hold when he and his girlfriend, Alma, realized they were expecting a baby. As high school seniors, they had to shift their focus from college and careers to the more immediate responsibilities of becoming parents.
Except…he just couldn’t. SJVC’s high school representative came to Alexander’s school to talk about the college’s Criminal Justice: Corrections program at the Rancho Cucamonga (now Ontario) campus. “I wasn’t even thinking about college, just thinking about working day-by-day,” says Alexander. “But the way they spoke about the school, it was mind-blowing. You know what, I’m just going to give it a try.” Alma caught his excitement and career dreams and decided to enroll, as well.
That idea had to wait when Adeline’s premature birth in November of their senior year took all Alexander and Alma had just to get from day-to-day. For over three weeks, their baby girl struggled in the hospital. “She wouldn’t eat, could hardly breathe, and I didn’t think she was going to make it at that time,” he says. “I was ready to drop out of school.”
But he didn’t. And neither did Alma. “Seeing my daughter, the way she was so strong for us; it motivated me and my wife, the way she didn’t give up on us,” says Alexander. “We needed to be strong for her and each other.”
Alexander started the Criminal Justice: Corrections program a week after graduating high school. Alma jumped in, too.
They hunkered down and leaned heavily on family to help them make it. “Our parents basically told us, ‘We’re not giving up on you guys; we’re here to support you, but you have to grow up and take responsibility.’” Alexander and Alma both worked full-time while they were in school, and family stepped in to take care of their daughter.
Alexander’s mom, Martha, was his rock. “There’s no way to thank her enough, but the best thing I can do is make her proud.”
“We are the first in our families to go to college,” says Alexander. “And, from my family, I was the first one to graduate high school. Our families wanted us to be successful in life.”
Alexander worked the 3:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. shift as a forklift driver in a warehouse. He came home, studied for an hour, then got ready for evening Criminal Justice: Corrections class. Alma worked at Subway during the day and went to the same evening class.
“I was having a hard time with grades and actually keeping up, and half the time I was falling asleep in class,” says Alexander. “Alma was a big support, but teachers knew we were together, so they sat us apart,” he laughs.
Both Alexander and Alma discovered they were well-suited for the law enforcement field and excelled in class. “Alexander had integrity, and he led by example,” says Darryl Chesnut, Criminal Justice: Corrections Program Director. “His professionalism was one of the best I’d worked with at SJVC.”
Alma was a standout student, as well. “Alma was chosen to lead her entire academy class,” says Chesnut. “As a lieutenant in charge of her 15-week academy class, she was the highest-ranking position and a can-do motivator, always helping other students out.”
“He (Chesnut) was a great instructor; very intimidating, but very on-point with everything,” says Alexander. “Everything we went through, he went through, and we trusted him and knew everything he was telling us was the way it is in the real world of law enforcement.”
Darryl Chesnut was also there for his students when they needed more than what the curriculum and instructor in-the-field experience might teach them. “He taught us that if we paid attention and followed instructions, we could be successful,” says Alexander. “He told me, ‘If this is what you really want to do, you have to push yourself, and you will be successful in the end.’ I took that advice and will never forget what he said.”
Alexander is on the verge of that success now. After he graduated from the Criminal Justice: Corrections program and just before he turned 21, Alexander got a DUI. “I was not drinking and there was no alcohol in my system,” he says. “I went to court and the case was dismissed.” But his driver’s license was suspended for a year.
“I had to wait for at least a year to re-apply to the LAPD,” says Alexander. He has high hopes of passing all the requirements, going forward.
“I never expected to go to college,” says Alexander. “I never expected to graduate college with my Associate’s.” Maybe even more surprising were the life lessons he learned along the way to getting his degree.
“Everything that I learned about criminal justice, the discipline, the way to go with life, had a big impact on me. It all really helped me out.”
Both Alexander and Alma share their education, career and life experiences when SJVC invites them back to campus to speak to Criminal Justice: Corrections students. Alma is now a Youth Correctional Officer and Alexander is a Detention Officer with a great deal of wisdom to share with those trying to find their way in their chosen careers.
Through their struggles, Alexander and Alma have found their own strengths. They, along with 7-year-old Adeline and 2-year-old Adriel, are happy to share a life that so many others helped to create.
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