Wayne Community College celebrated the cadets who completed its 79th Basic Law Enforcement Training academy and the woman who oversaw almost all of those academies in a graduation ceremony last month.
The six cadets who completed the college’s academy received certificates to work as sworn law enforcement officers in North Carolina.
Certificates were conferred on:
- Johnathan Roderick Buckrham of Goldsboro
- Courtney Brock Craig of Dudley
- Paige Kathleen Davis of Nahunta
- Michael Jonathan Koh of Calypso
- Adam Isaac Reyes of Mount Olive
- Chase Michael Thompson of Pikeville
Awards were presented for outstanding performance in various training areas.
Koh garnered the Major J. Memmelaar Student Excellence Award. In addition to being the overall top graduate, WCC Public Safety Division Dean Beverly Deans said that he demonstrated a “true and sincere dedication” to the law enforcement profession.
Formerly the Valedictorian Award, it was renamed to honor Jay R. Memmelaar Jr., an officer with the Goldsboro Police Department who died in the line of duty in 2017. He had been the valedictorian of his 1991 WCC Basic Law Enforcement Training class and became an instructor in the academy in 1995.
Koh “struggled from the very first day we entered to stay on top during the long hours and never-ending demands of the academy, myself, Ms. Blizzard [WCC Law Enforcement Coordinator Angie Blizzard], and the instructors. Every situation they were exposed to, they always came out with a positive and professional attitude,” Deans said.
Koh was also recognized by the Foundation of Wayne Community College with a monetary award from the George D. Williams Memorial Fund. Deans noted that Williams was “one of our true community supporters.”
The Physical Fitness Award went to Craig. All of the cadets mastered the activities designed to prepare them for the Police Officer’s Physical Ability Test and a timed mile-and-a-half run, said Academy Instructor Karl Rabhan, a captain with the Goldsboro Police Department (GPD), but Craig stood out because she had “boundless energy, constantly pulled her teammates up, and demonstrated leadership.”
Thompson earned the “Top Gun” award for demonstrating the most overall proficiency in use of firearms. Cadets complete 48 hours of firearms work in both the classroom and on the firing range. Thompson showed the most skill handling a firearm, said Instructor Michael Sweet, a sergeant with Goldsboro Police Department.
Thompson and Buckrham were selected to speak during the ceremony on behalf of their classmates. They talked about the rigors of the academy, the dedication and sacrifices of their loved ones and friends that allowed them to complete it, and the respect they have for their instructors and their new profession.
Buckrham said that at the beginning of the program, “All of us questioned our sanity, questioned whether we wanted to be here or not. It is not easy,” he said. “I’ve grown as a person and I know I’ve seen everyone else grow.”
Deans acknowledged the mental and physical challenges the cadets had faced during more than 700 hours of training covering a minimum of 39 aspects of law enforcement. She congratulated them for the commitment that got them through it all.
“You have completed the transformation from citizen to law enforcement. You have passed all of the state-mandated segments, survived the physical and mental training of academy life, sacrificed a lot over the last four months, and successfully arrived at this new moment in your life,” said Deans.
“The first line of defense for your community lies with you. It is a fine line you walk. It is not us against them,” Deans said. “Law enforcement officers must follow the part of truth and righteousness.”
“We chose this profession to protect and serve. We are the 24/seven help line and defense for our streets and our neighborhoods,” she said.
“You now have a unique opportunity because you can dramatically change someone’s life for the better by taking the time to care, protect, and serve,” Deans said.
Blizzard capped off the ceremony with advice for the graduates.
“As a law enforcement officer, you should work for the greater good of the community and in service of others,” Blizzard said. “Studies have shown that you will influence approximately 10,000 people in your lifetime. You will make a difference in the lives of individuals who need you at a moment’s notice and you are that most important person in their lives at that time.”
“Please maintain your moral compass. Always remember the four cornerstones of the compass: peace, equity, justice, and service. They will help guide you and give you true points of reference, not only in your career, but in your personal life as well,” she said.
“Uphold the sense of duty, dignity, and discipline that you feel today. Do not be impressed by the authority granted to you by your badge but rather, be humbled by it, for it is much larger than you are. Your job gives you authority, but your behavior gives you respect,” said Blizzard.
Dr. Patty Pfeiffer, WCC’s interim president, spoke about the cadets’ courage. “Each of you are willing to put your safety in danger to serve our community and for that, I know I will be forever grateful,” she said.
She also thanked “the best basic law enforcement faculty in all of the North Carolina Community College System” and noted Ms. Deans’ retirement at the end of December 2021.
“For over 40 years, [Ms. Deans] was doing was she was called to do,” Pfeiffer said. “Many in the law enforcement community know Beverly as a strong and tough woman committed to excellence in everything she does, a role model, and more importantly, a friend.”
Deans, who started at the college as a student, rose from teaching assistant to instructor in the Criminal Justice Program and law enforcement training coordinator, and finally, dean of the Public Safety Division. She also worked in law enforcement throughout that time and served on numerous local and state committees and commissions related to law enforcement, public safety, and training.
Deans was also lauded in a video message from the cadets, who called her “Mama Deans,” thanked her for her constant support and leadership, and noted that her “legacy will remain forever.”
With this graduating class, the school has produced 1,191 graduates since the college started its program in 1983. Currently, WCC graduates work for 53 different law enforcement agencies in this state and more elsewhere.
WCC’s academy is accredited by the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission and North Carolina Sheriffs’ Education and Training Standards Commission through the N.C. Community College System.