HUDSON — During the course of a typical day at Fivay High School's Criminal Justice Academy, students might find themselves making mock arrests, testing their skills on the shooting range or deeply involved in a fingerprinting activity.
And along the way, their teacher hopes, they are setting the course for their futures.
"This class gives students a kid's-eye view of law enforcement careers," said teacher Martin Rickus. "This class is an eye-opener, allowing them to see the real world."
A retired New Port Richey police chief, Rickus is himself trying his hand at a new law enforcement career, one in which he grooms the next generation of police officers, attorneys, dispatchers and other personnel. His academy, in its seventh year, currently includes 140 students.
Throughout the course of the four-year program, students conduct extensive studies, administered through both books and videos, regarding laws, cases and statutes. They learn how to file police reports and take fingerprints, how to take police calls and how to conduct themselves on the job.
Then they take what they've learned and put it into action. Any given day could find students out on the obstacle course, lining up at the shooting range adjacent to the classroom or simulating handcuffing and arrests in the school wrestling room.
"Through this class, I've learned the basics of law enforcement and developed the agility to pass the tests," said academy student Justin Adams, 18. "I can fingerprint, shoot better, prepare crime scenes, separate witnesses, handcuff and do takedowns."
And as he learns these skills, Adams has one specific goal in mind.
"I want to help people," he said.
Kailee Graham, a sophomore, also expresses a strong desire to help people and serve the community.
"I want to help women and children through my job," said Graham, 15. "In this class, I learn how to conduct myself everywhere from on the radio to at the courthouse. I learn safety and how to help people get out of bad situations."
Graham also shares the goal of classmate Jaydin Jennings: to promote a positive image of women in law enforcement.
"I want to both make people safe and learn how to protect myself," said Jennings, a 16-year-old sophomore. "And for women in law enforcement, we can overcome the stereotypes and be role models."
In the eyes of Rickus, each of his students is a role model.
"I used to think I might spend my retirement fishing," he said. "But now, I'm here every day for these kids. It's all about the kids."