AVON PARK, Fla. – Aug. 31, 2016 – South Florida State College graduated 12 law enforcement officers on Aug. 30, handing them their diploma, challenge coins, and advice as they prepare for their first assignments.

The 12 cadets of Basic Law Enforcement Class 248 filed into the SFSC University Center auditorium on the Highlands Campus for the 6 p.m. ceremony and stood at attention while a color guard presented the Stars and Stripes. The auditorium’s seats were filled families, well-wishers, and law enforcement officer from surrounding counties.

Before picking up their diplomas, the cadets heard a send-off speech from Chris Velasquez, the chief of the Lake Wales Police Department. Velasquez got his start in law enforcement after he graduated from the SFSC Criminal Justice Academy more than 20 years ago.

“You cadets just completed one of the finest law enforcement programs in the state,” Velasquez told the graduates. “But your training and education are only just beginning.”

Velasquez observed that in his time as a law enforcement officer he has seen technology transform the profession. He said the cadets will see even more changes as automation and technology make further inroads into policing.

He sounded a note of caution in his remarks. He spoke of the vital role communications plays in fostering a cooperative relationship with the community.

“While a lot has changed in how we do our work, one thing hasn’t: good communications with the people you serve,” Velasquez said. “We need to have the community behind us to do our jobs well and maintaining healthy communications with them is key.”

Michael Huften, SFSC’s coordinator of criminal justice training, then called up the 12 graduates to the stage to hand them their challenge coins, specially minted medallions that signify their achievement and bond as future law enforcement officers. Erik Christensen, dean of Applied Sciences and Technology, presented the diplomas.

Graduating that night were: Brett A. Rich, Brian Williams, Dustin D. Baker, Brandon Wells, Cody Hoffner, Christian Northcutt, Ryan Brand, Norman Jackson, Tyler W. Haywood, Diego Serrano, Kalob Rickett, and Justin Register. (Pictured above, left to right.)

Huften singled out four cadets for their achievements during the nearly six-month course. Brand and Register earned top honors for their academic excellence. Williams scored the firearms award for his work on the shooting range.

Haywood, who was tapped as class leader, has secured a position with the Sebring Police Department. The former U.S. Army military police officer stepped up to the lectern to single out each of his fellow cadets with a compliment before thanking all the families and friends who had supported the class during their 770-hour course.

For more information about the SFSC Criminal Justice Academy, which includes a program that prepares one for a career as a corrections officer, call the SFSC Advising and Counseling Center at 863-784-7313.