By Lauren McCracken
A graduation ceremony at the Alexandria Courthouse this afternoon concluded the 2012 session of the Sheriff’s Office Youth Academy. Eighteen students were awarded certificates for their participation in the four-day program. Family, members of the Sheriff’s Office and City officials attended the ceremony and enjoyed celebratory cake and cookies afterward.
The Youth Academy program was run by Deputy Valerie Wright, with help from Commander Mondre Kornegay and Chief Deputy Lennis George. During the four days, students learned the ins and outs of criminal justice in Alexandria, which included a visit to the Alexandria Detention Center and a scavenger hunt in Old Town.
After the procession of the students and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Academy graduate Tamiya Johnson, attendees enjoyed a vocal performance of the national anthem by graduate Madison Ignacio. Guest speakers at the ceremony included City Prosecutor Bryan Porter, Chief Deputy George and Sheriff Dana Lawhorne.
“It’s been an educational four days,” said Lawhorne, who went on to express his pride in both the Sheriff’s Office and the participants in the Youth Academy, and his hopes to spark an interest in young people in the field of criminal justice. Lawhorne described to the students his first experience going on a police ride at a young age.
“I got the bug,” he said. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Porter, a graduate of T.C. Williams and former police officer, now works as the Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney. He applauded the Youth Academy participants for dedicating their precious vacation time to the program.
“I never thought I would be here today, speaking to all of you,” said Porter, who interned with City Prosecutors when he was in high school. He encouraged the students to make good decisions and to always think of their futures, especially ones that might involve careers in criminal justice.
“It was a really exciting experience,” said graduate Bryce Roper. “It was fun to learn all these new things, and I’ve gained a serious interest in how this all works.”
“This week was about opportunities and possibilities,” said George. “And you were a great class.”