Every graduating senior has a story. Tonight there will be speeches and awards in a – hopefully not too stifling – high school auditorium and we will hear some of these stories.
There's Valedictorian Andrew Eagen, attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall. And Catherine Lillis, off to UPenn, who will be awarded Salutatorian.
And then there are the dozens upon dozens of others, all deserving of honors for their own unique achievements. Look for Marion Javellana crossing the stage tonight, who, according to guidance chair David Ziegler, “arrived in this country five years ago and has progressed from our most basic courses to Honors/AP coursework and currently ranks in the top 5 percent of the graduating class.”
Ziegler also pointed out a young man who has already experienced graduation.
On June 7, senior Kevin Moya was among four Sleepy Hollow High teens to graduate from the Westchester Youth Police Academy at Pace University. Moya and the others were bused to Pace every day for six weeks. Here, 31 students from the region worked out in the morning – paramilitary-style – and then received hands-on instruction from experienced law enforcement professionals, took field trips, and listened to guest speakers from secret service agents to attorneys.
Moya soon learned from tangible experience in the field – ridealongs with on-duty cops in Ossining, New Castle, Pleasantville, and Rye Brook – that law enforcement work is “so much more than just the TV shows. It's nothing like that,” he said. “It's not cool and perfect.” And not always so action-packed.
In practice simulations, the teens had to do police car stops during which something unanticipated goes wrong. The student police would approach a car and discover – surprise – there's someone smoking a bong, or there's a gun, a bat – and, quick, what are you going to do?
Moya enjoyed visiting the prison in Ossining the most. Well maybe not “enjoyed” exactly. “The best parts were definitely going to Sing-Sing prison," he said. "You really see the other side of law enforcement. Whoa, these people are hanging out here forever. It's full, packed. Sad.”
Another educational epiphany Moya had came from...a baseball game. The group held a game with kids with disabilities and Moya realized how important the outreach/public-relations aspect of the work can be. “It's so important to be seen as good people,” he said.
Moya's a real advocate now for the police, though he's always been interested in law enforcement and aims to make a career of it. “They do it for safety. They are trying to prevent the worst things from happening,” he said. “It does give you a new perspective.”
Lastly, there are the great friends he made in six weeks. They've even formed a Facebook group to keep up with each other. And Moya, for one, will be worth watching as he continues to follow his dreams.
From here, he plans to take the police test for the Bronx and Westchester – “the more tests I take, the more chances I get for a job after a college.” In the city, he said, they will take young people and pay for them to go to the Police Academy, whereas in our county it's “not as easy to get in” and they only take transfers who already have police experience.
Moya wants to major in criminal justice and pyschology at SUNY Albany and if he gets accepted to police training along the way he'll switch to part-time at college. Not to say the traditional education isn't important to him. Moya talks about getting a Master's degree, a PhD, practicing medicine...all with the ultimate mission of combining his two main interests in forensics and psychology. But he knows his education exists beyond the books.
“I wouldn't trade [the experience] for anything,” he said. “I learned a lot more through that program than I would have at school. It's real life.”