Female Cadets in Ontario Criminal Justice Corrections program bring home big wins in competition
On October 21st, more than 100 women muscled up to compete in the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department’s annual Women’s Warrior Challenge held in Apple Valley. Competitors came from criminal justice corrections training programs, fitness camps, security details, or just on their own to throw down among their peers. Their common interest was a desire to, one day, work in law enforcement.
12 Criminal Justice Corrections program cadets from SJVC’s Ontario campus took up the rigors of this competition, which included three challenges: 400-yard dash, 200-yard timed obstacle course that included climbing a 6-foot fence, 6-foot wall and dragging a 165-pound dummy 10 feet, and timed push-ups and sit-ups.
A medal is awarded to first, second and third place winners in each challenge, as well as to three competitors who are deemed outstanding overall.
SJVC’s original team of 12 included: Rachel Garcia (Team Captain), Nailim Salcedo, Elizabeth Serrano, Raelene Martinez, Jocelyn Gamboa, Victoria Fuentes, Kimberly Arevalo, Andrea Licea, Heather Macias, Ana X Castro, Jessica Martinez and Noemi Bailon. Ana Castro was injured before the meet and was unable to compete. Her enthusiastic cheers could be heard from the sidelines crowded with spectators and supporters.
The SJVC team practiced for several weeks prior to the competition. “We did a lot of training beforehand,” says Elizabeth Serrano. “We stayed after school and trained, and on weekends on our own time, to basically prepare us.” Training for the competition was a good way for these young women to measure themselves – not only against the upcoming competition but against their own physical progress.
The team had to do well. The first time SJVC’s Criminal Justice Corrections team competed in this event several months ago, they brought home one Second Place and two First Place awards. They had a reputation to protect.
“This year, they (the Sheriff’s Department) remembered us,” says Darryl Chesnut, Criminal Justice Corrections Program Director. “They said, ‘You guys took a lot of First Places last year.’ We’re getting our name out there.”
“I thought it was going to be hard mentally, and thought I was going to have trouble getting over the wall,” says Heather Macias, Criminal Justice Corrections team member. “I thought they (competitors) were going to be more athletic and get it done quicker.” It didn’t go that way. “I was better prepared at what I was up against.”
SJVC’s team strengthened their reputation by securing six medals this year: Rachel Garcia (graduated 2 months ago) won four First Place medals: One for each of the three challenges and one Overall medal. Nailim Salcedo won Second Place and Elizabeth Serrano won Third Place in the Overall category.
Elizabeth is the Commander of the Color Guard in her Criminal Justice Corrections program and will graduate in December. She is the first one in her family to pursue a career in law enforcement. “I have a passion for what I do, love the school I’m in, and love everything I’ve learned so far,” she says.
This event is much more than an opportunity for participants to flex some muscle and win coveted awards. It is a clear path toward a position with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department.
The Sheriff’s Department is in full recruitment mode at these hosted events. “They have a room where they have recruiters whose purpose is to get qualified women into the Sheriff’s Department,” says Chesnut. “They have a hard time finding qualified women, and they’re trying to get their numbers up.”
Female law enforcement officers are sought out to help provide a balance of interaction and response to situations and populations served. “Women are more apt to de-escalate situations where men are more apt to put their hands on in that situation,” says Chesnut.
Anyone joining the Sheriff’s Department must complete the 6-month POST (Police Officer Standard and Training) Academy in preparation for a position in law enforcement. “Out of 100 cadets in the Academy, there will usually only be about 5 or 6 women,” says Chesnut.
If female officers are actively recruited, the Women’s Warrior event was the perfect place for SJVC’s team to make their mark. “SJVC Ontario cadets in the Criminal Justice program dominated the event, and the San Bernardino Sheriff’s department was very impressed,” says Chesnut.
The Sheriff’s Department was so pleased with his team’s performance that they corralled the women to talk about an Academy fast-track. “An officer in charge of recruitment said he would like to offer them all applications for a job,” says Chesnut. “He wanted to get them into the January Academy (those who will have completed their Criminal Justice Corrections program).”
Darryl has full confidence that his cadets will successfully complete the Academy. “Our women are prepared because we go through a 20-week Academy-type of training here before they graduate. They are better prepared for what they will experience when they enter the Academy.”
Confidence is something that is contagious among his cadets, whether in a competition or in the classroom. Many begin with some hesitation about their ability to do well in this male-dominated career. Most find a level of confidence that takes them wherever they want to go.
“I experienced a lot of instructors being harder on me,” says Heather. “But now I feel more confident in myself and in my abilities to succeed in what I want in life.”
“We really push everybody to help each other,” says Chesnut. “We encourage equal opportunity in letting every single person who has the dream to become a law enforcement officer; that they can achieve that dream if they are willing to put in the work.”
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