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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Hands-on aspect of Criminal Justice program makes strong impression

January 26, 2015
Criminal Justice program student Luis Graciano
Luis has aspired to work in law enforcement since childhood. He hopes to work his way up to a position as a Deputy Sheriff.

Luis Graciano has always been interested in a career in law enforcement. “Since I was a little kid, I’d see a cop car and get goose bumps,” says the 24-year-old. “I wanted to be the person in that car, helping people, making things better.”

After kicking around for a few years in post-high school jobs, Luis was feeling like it was time to act on his vision. He and his girlfriend, Erika, had a plan. He would help her get through school, and then she would work while he was in school full-time.

Erika was enrolled in SJVC’s Medical Assisting program on the Ontario campus, and came home one day excited to tell Luis about a Criminal Justice Corrections program at the school. “She pushed me to see the program,” says Luis. “She said it wouldn’t hurt to see if I liked it, and I ended up loving it.”

Erika graduated and went to work for a doctor’s office. Then, it was Luis’ turn. But he had second thoughts about putting full financial responsibility on Erika’s shoulders, and decided to continue his full-time job as a parts driver for Nissan.

“It’s all hard,” says Luis, who works all day then changes into his CJ uniform before heading to class. “Sometimes I’m doing homework after I get home after 11:00 at night.”

But Luis knew his program was better than others he had checked. “Other programs weren’t hands-on at all; it was all by the books,” he says. “They didn’t show students any procedures or go to the shooting range like this school. And our instructors all have 20-plus years of experience and tell us about real live situations on the job, so that we don’t make the mistakes they have seen.”

Luis likes the professionalism that CJ students are expected to project at all times. “In class, we are expected to act like we are in a real (police) academy,” says Luis. “We have to be on-point at all times. It gives us discipline and prepares us to be ready to be out there in the real world.”

Luis excelled in the CJ program, earning a 4.0 GPA and Student of the Quarter recognition that included a $250 scholarship, certificate, plaque and his own parking spot right in front of the school for three months. “My instructor pulled me outside and walked me down the hall,” says Luis. “Did I do something wrong?” I asked her. “We walked into a room and there was clapping and cheering and then I heard my name announced for the award,” he says. “It felt good parking in that spot,” Luis laughs.

“Luis was nominated by his peers to receive the Student of the Quarter award,” says Lindsay Fotia, Dean of Student Services. “He is well liked and is always willing to help fellow classmates and instructors whenever it is needed.”

Luis is a humble guy who never seeks the limelight; it just lands on him naturally.

He grew up in a family with few niceties, and developed a real appreciation for things that most kids took for granted.  His parents, Fernando and Irma, taught him value in the smallest things. “I wouldn’t ask for much as a kid; money was tight and they did the best they could.”

Part of what drives Luis is the message his success will give his parents. “I want to make something of myself, show them I’m capable of getting a career and helping them in any way I can.”

He is feeling a push that comes from within. “I’m paying for this school, so I’m not going to waste any time or money,” says Luis. “I want to give it my all to become what I want to be. In order to get the very best, you have to be the very best. You get what you give.”

It is all so close. “I want to be a Deputy Sheriff,” says Luis. “I will get as much experience as I can on the streets and in the prisons and go as high as I can go. I believe that in order to be in command, you have to have experience in everything in law enforcement.”

Luis realizes that today’s law enforcement is under close scrutiny, and there are a lot of negative feelings about police behavior. “I want to help add clarity, if I can; to make the world a better place,” he emphasizes. “I can’t save the world, but I can try to do as many good things as I can, and maybe inspire someone else to pass that on.”

There is little doubt he will make his mark.

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