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MHS Criminal Justice Students Earn Gold and Bronze at State Law Enforcement Competition This Summer

Press Release|
Shane Mauldin|
Monday, August 29, 2016

McKinney, Texas – The end of the school year is typically accompanied by a tremendous whooshing sound as students race out the doors toward summer fun and relaxation. But for eight McKinney High School students, the start of summer just meant that they would have more time to focus on training.

John Hutcherson, Sam Surprenant, Phillip Cruze, Adam Vernier, Jesus Heredia, Angela Sinacore, Gabe Stufflebeam and Matt Tallo are members of the MHS Law Enforcement Explorers team and students in the school’s criminal justice program, and they spent a hefty portion of their summer training for state competition hosted by the Texas Law Enforcement Explorer Advisory Association at the University of Arlington July 28 – 31—an event that draws high school-aged teams from all over Texas.

MHS Law Enforcement Explorers

The MHS Law Enforcement Explorers team at state competition: Front row (l-r):  Phillip Cruz, Jesus Heredia, Angela Sinacore, Sam Surprenant, Kina Vinson; Back row (l-r):  Sgt. Holmes, Adam Vernier, Matt Tallo, Gabe Stufflebeam, John Hutcherson

The hard work paid high dividends. From among a field of 80 teams, the group from MHS earned a gold medal in the Unknown Call for Police event and a bronze medal in the Active Shooter category.

MHS criminal justice teacher Kina Vinson put that accomplishment in perspective.

“There were teams from San Antonio, Houston—even Tulsa, Oklahoma,” said Vinson. “The difference between our kids and the other kids at the state meet is that the organizers are just now starting to let school districts into this competition. MHS and Boyd were two of the first schools they let in. They didn’t think that we would be able to keep up with the competition because the other teams are all law enforcement.

“So, it’s not, for example, Harris County High School. It’s Harris County Sheriff’s Office. These other teams are taught by police officers 100 percent of the time, so they are very squared away, very good at what they do,” added Vinson. “When we go to regionals, we take everything. But, when you go to state, those guys are perfect, so if you’re not perfect then you’re not even going to place.

“Out of a 100 point system, we had one year where we had 104 points and didn’t place,” Vinson said. “For them to go and place as freshmen this year is huge.”

The MHS team did have training support from members of the McKinney Police Department who volunteered their personal time to help out; Vinson credited Sgt. Holmes, Cpl. Kincaid and Officers Grogan and McGee with giving the team the extra edge they needed to succeed at such a high level.

“These officers are teaching our team exactly the kinds of things they do on the streets. These kids take that to the competition, use those tactics and are winning these events. We could not do it without these police officers. They’re awesome,” Vinson said.

The students recognize that, too.

“We really enjoy all their help. It’s really awesome,” said Sam Surprenant, who is a sophomore this year at MHS. “We probably wouldn’t have placed without all those officers and Ms. Vinson helping us.”

Jesus Heredia, also a sophomore, added, “The events that we placed in are the ones that they helped us with.”

Preparing for such a competition isn’t easy. Vinson and Sgt. Holmes hold the kids to tough standards. After all, it’s police work they’re training for. The expectations are high.

“We treat them as if they’re going into law enforcement,” said Vinson. “Their grades have to be good. Their character has to be good, not only in our program but in their other classes. So, if they have issues in class, we handle those just like we would a disciplinary report on the street. We don’t want these kids to get into the law enforcement career and then realize, ‘This is not what I want.’ Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of fun. But, if it were always fun, then when they got into law enforcement, they’d be like, ‘Wow, this is not Ms. V’s program! This is not how Sgt. Holmes treated us!’ So, we’re hard on them, but we also have a really good time.”

The Law Enforcement Explorer program has grown alongside the Criminal Justice program at MHS over the past five years, and for students like Sam and Jesus, who are interested in pursuing law enforcement, it’s developed into a viable pathway for students to explore that profession.

Some of Vinson’s students intern with the McKinney Police Department, and one of her former students is currently in police academy training. “It’s time consuming,” Vinson said of her work, “but it’s really worth it, especially when you’ve got a kid that just went into academy.”

For Sam and Jesus and the rest of the team from MHS, they’ve already got their sights set on next summer’s state competition, and they’ll start recruiting a new crop of potential team members within the first few weeks of school. They’ll elect officers for their Explorer post and place recruitment posters around campus, and there is no reason to think that when next summer rolls around next year, they won’t be right there in the thick of it again at the state competition.

That means there is a lot of hard work ahead of them. But, for Sam and Jesus, the payoff is worth the sacrifice.

“The competition is really great. It’s stressful, but then after you do it, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m glad I did it. That was really fun,’” said Sam.

“And it’s not like a bad stress where you’re like, ‘I want to quit,’” added Jesus. It’s like your adrenaline’s pumping, and you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

And, when you leave holding a medal…

“I was really happy. I felt pretty good,” said Sam.

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