Texas Border Business
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Since she was a little girl, Gracy Espinoza has dreamt of working in law enforcement and she found that the Criminal Justice program at Texas Southmost College was a great stepping stone in making her dreams come true.
“Instead of cartoons I watched crime scene investigation documentaries,” said the 24-year-old. “And seeing my dad work as a security guard inspired me even more, but I decided I would take it one step further and work toward becoming a police officer.”
The Criminal Justice program at TSC is giving students like Espinoza the foundation they need to pursue careers in law enforcement by introducing them to various facets of the criminal justice system.
“This program works in two ways – it introduces a student to the field, or helps a law enforcement professional pursue promotions,” said Christopher Alves, TSC Criminal Justice project coordinator. “Our goal is to create a pathway so our students can meet their individual goals.”
The program offers two-degree tracks – Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Arts. Both are 60 credit hours and take about two years to complete.
The Associate of Applied Science is geared toward the person who already works within the criminal justice system and requires a degree to move up the chain of command, while the Associate of Arts is focused on the individual who is looking to transfer to a four-year university to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
With an articulation agreement between TSC and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the credits obtained through the Associate of Arts are transferrable to a four-year degree.
“No matter what a student is working toward in our program, we take them under our wing, provide guidance and career counseling,” said Alves. “It is our mission to have our students grow academically and be successful.”
Students in this program also get the unique opportunity of working within their community through the program’s Criminal Justice Leaders Association.
As members of this on-campus organization, students complete community service projects by participating in domestic violence awareness, mental health awareness, local school and beach clean-up events, all while networking with professionals in the field.
The largest community and networking event for the program is its annual Law Enforcement Expo, where more than 30 law enforcement agencies showcase their departments and career opportunities.
“There is more to criminal justice than just sitting in a classroom, because when you enter the field you’re also a public servant,” said Alves. “These opportunities presented to our students showcase their talents and set them apart from others.”
For Espinosa, the learning, training and community service has been an eye-opening experience and has prepared her to enter the police academy at TSC after she graduates.
“I’ve learned about a whole new world and my instructors have made me even more excited to follow my career path,” she said. “This program has given me what I need to confidently enter the academy and pursue a successful career in law enforcement.
Graduates from this program have moved on to become police officers, border patrol agents, state troopers, juvenile justice coordinators, corrections supervisors, Transportation Security Administration agents, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents and U.S. Marshals.
“We are training the next generation of criminal justice professionals,” said Alves. “Our goals are to create pathways for students into the workforce or continuing their education and to make this the premiere Criminal Justice program in the Rio Grande Valley.”