Exploring law enforcement-related museums this summer in Washington, D.C. further strengthened the passion and resolve of Cayuga Community College criminal justice students to pursue careers dedicated to helping their local communities.
Current Cayuga students and recent graduates trekked to the nation’s capital this summer to visit the National Law Enforcement Museum and other historic locations, gaining valuable experience and information from national experts as they prepare for criminal justice careers.
“These trips offer students the chance to gain hands-on experience and to hear directly from professionals about their experiences. Education and learning should go well beyond the classroom, and this trip is a prime example of that,” said Professor Theresa Misiaszek. “Here they can see legislation debated in the Senate, or a case argued in the U.S. Supreme Court. These experiences are indelible and irreplaceable.”
On this year’s trip, students toured the United States Capitol Building, the International Spy Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Law Enforcement Museum, plus the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in particular made a strong impact on the students. Dedicated to working with families and law enforcement, the Center helps find missing children and prevent abductions. The Center was founded in 1984, with Cayuga alum John Walsh and his wife Revé helping to start the organization.
Touring the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children gave students a chance to learn more about crimes against children in the United States, including that in 2018 United States law enforcement received more than 424,000 reports of missing children.
Alexa Smalley and Taneka Moton, both Spring 2019 Cayuga graduates who earned degrees in Criminal Justice: Police, said the Center was a devastating, informative experience.
“It’s just unbelievable how many children go missing each day, and so many of them seem to disappear without enough people realizing it,” said Smalley. “It doesn’t receive enough publicity to help solve the problem.”
Smalley said learning about efforts to reunite missing children with their families strengthened her conviction to pursue a career in law enforcement.
“The Center showed us how much work goes into finding missing children, but also how much that work benefits other people and how you can help people every day, sometimes without even realizing it,” said Smalley.
The National Law Enforcement Museum offered students a chance to experience emergency scenarios first-hand. Open since the fall of 2018, the Museum allows visitors to explore the development of law enforcement and features simulators for hands-on learning opportunities. Visitors can enter decision-making training simulators, experience a simulated 9-1-1 emergency dispatch, or collect evidence.
Moton said practicing collecting evidence at a fictional crime scene or working with a partner in an emergency situation were essential opportunities to take classroom lessons and put them into practice.
"Everything we learn we want to put into action, which is a good thing that helps us understand techniques and learn from our mistakes,” said Moton. “That’s one of the things I love about community colleges — we are taught by professors who have actually practiced in the field, and they can help you learn from their experience and gain field experience of your own.”
Particularly for students interested in careers in criminal justice, those simulated experiences at the National Law Enforcement Museum were invaluable, said Misiaszek.
“A simulator experience connects the textbook lessons and classroom discussions with an actual case, policy or procedure. It allows the students to go through a trial run, and then discuss with a professional what they did correct or what they need to change. That’s invaluable to students interested in criminal justice careers,” she said.
The 2019 trip marked the seventh time criminal justice students have toured Washington, D.C.
For more information about Cayuga’s Criminal Justice Degree Program, visit https://www.cayuga-cc.edu/academics/schools/social-sciences-and-education/criminal-justice/