It was new. It was different. But the smiles, the sense of accomplishment, the joy of taking the next step toward a lifelong goal and the sighs of relief were all the same when 35 Texas Southmost College Criminal Justice Institute cadets “walked the stage” on July 24 during TSC’s first-ever CJI Virtual Graduation Ceremony.
Among the 35 graduates were nine female cadets, the most in any previous CJI class.
“It took a little while to get here, but it’s satisfying to know that I did,” said 24-year-old CJI Cadet Ruth Erwin. “It’s a good thing to see more women. We’re moving forward and showing that not just males, but women can succeed in this field.”
TSC Board Chairwoman Adela G. Garza congratulated the graduates during the opening portion of the virtual ceremony and said she was happy to see more females joining the police academy to become law enforcement officers.
“This class is made up of a diverse group of students and I’m encouraged to see the number of women in this class,” said Garza, who is also a TSC alumna. “I’m excited for all of our graduates. This semester was trying for all of us, but I think this pandemic just made us stronger and has unified us more.”
Garza was followed by her daughter, Patricia Garza Burruss, an attorney and a prosecutor for the past several years, who serves on the Texas Commission of Law Enforcement, also congratulated the cadets and provided them with advice about how to cope with their chosen career.
“We are grateful that you have chosen to serve your community and this state, and we are grateful to your families, who support you in this endeavor and new way of life,” said Garza-Burruss. “There’s something very special in all of you who rise to the challenge to serve your community despite the dangers and challenges involved. Your job is not easy. You will never more be a regular citizen and you will be held to a higher standard.”
The CJI spring class of 2020 began its journey on Jan. 6 and after two and a half months of face-to-face instruction had to pivot and adjust to remote learning.
“Over the last seven months, the class has been exposed to a diverse group of instructors, who have prepared each of them to face head on, with confidence, any challenges their new careers will bring,” said CJI Director Willemina Edwards. “They have shown fortitude, perseverance and even some uneasiness, but they have all succeeded.”
Edwards said this class had to overcome the additional obstacles brought on by the pandemic and learn the “alphabet” of COVID-19: Calamity, Obstacles, Vulnerability, Inconvenience, Distress.
“We have all had difficulties and 2020 has had a lot of obstacles,” said CJI Class President Christian de los Santos. “But through it all, we all made it through with willpower and dedication. We learned from all of our instructors and even from COVID-19 that has taught us how to adapt to unexpected situations.”
Santos recognized that becoming a law enforcement officer brings new responsibilities in today’s ever-changing world.
“We have become the most needed and the most wanted,” he said. “We are now the newest diplomats. We are first responders. We must be physically strong, but we must care for others and we must be ladies and gentlemen in the field, even when the public is being rude. And after every shift, we must be able to come home to the ones we love.”
For more information about TSC’s Criminal Justice Institute, call 956-295-3723 or 956-295-3724, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.