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Ready to Serve: Criminal Justice Partnerships Help Students Earn While They Learn
Hard work pays off — and for students in the Administration of Justice program at Norco College, this especially rings true.
Norco College’s partnership with the Corona Police Department is giving students the chance to earn cash while they learn the skills. Law enforcement and other internship positions offer students essential on-the-job experience, a chance to make connections, and get their foot in the door for a high-powered career — all while possibly earning a paycheck.
“We’re just being very, very proactive here with our students at Norco College,” explains Dr. Sigrid Williams, who spearheaded Norco College’s Administration of Justice program’s revamped guided pathways. “We’re giving them the skill sets to get that livable wage.”
Dr. Williams established the Administration of Justice program’s guided pathways when she joined Norco College in 2017. These pathways outline three different degree programs, including a degree for transfer, an associate of science, and a crime scene investigation certificate. Each pathway focuses on six major areas, including courts, corrections, juvenile justice, criminalistics, crime analysis, and law school.
Dr. Williams says the opportunity with the Corona Police Department focuses on getting students involved in the field, whether they enter the program as paid interns, externs, or even just volunteers.
“Last year we flew [this internship] for the first time,” explains Dr. Williams. “We had six applicants, four that went through the process, three that actually went to the interviews …. two were forwarded to backgrounds for a paid part-time position.”
The partnership between Norco College and the Corona Police Department is a natural fit. The department is just short of four miles down the road from the college’s campus, plus professional connections through Dr. Williams made the collaboration seamless.
Justin Tucker and Dr. Williams spent time as colleagues in the Criminal Justice program at California State University, Fullerton. “After [Tucker] left CSUF to join the City of Corona working directly for the city manager, he reached out to me about a partnership between the city and Norco College, specifically the ADJ program,” explains Dr. Williams.
“This was also developed through an associate faculty member that is teaching our criminalistics class. She introduced me to her captain, and the chief of police over there, and they wanted an internship with our ADJ students to get them in the door.”
From criminal investigators, criminal analysts, evidence technicians, and more, there are dozens of essential positions necessary for a successful process in the criminal justice system. The curriculum within the Administration of Justice program introduces students to these positions, offering a more introspective look within the field.
Students in these pathways are working towards in-demand careers with paychecks to match. With an average salary of $98,000 in the region for law enforcement, $77,000 for crime scene technicians, and $78,000 for correctional counselors, these students’ hard work is bound to pay off.
Students even have the option to return to the classroom after graduating, as criminal justice and law enforcement post-secondary instructor positions are expected to grow 11 percent nationally between 2020 and 2030.
However, staffing shortages are affecting police departments across the country, with law enforcement officers specifically seeing declines. A survey performed by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), found between 2020 and 2021, there was an 18 percent increase in resignations and a 45 percent increase in retirements within the police departments that responded.
With over 30 years of experience in the legal field and public safety, Dr. Williams’ work in the Administration of Justice program is addressing the need — and preparing students for a high-powered, well-rounded career in the criminal justice field.
“I have really good adjuncts that I’ve hired from a wide variety of backgrounds, so it’s not just one culture our students are learning from,” beams Dr. Williams. “They’re learning from a variety. Large departments, small departments, DA’s office … we’re putting on a really good program.”
Since the fruition of the Administration of Justice program in 2018, growth is at an all-time high of 350 percent, according to Dr. Williams.
“Our students not only get the academia side of administration of justice, but they also get living skills tools,” says Dr. Williams. “If they want to come in and do mock interviews, job interviews, we do that with them. So, it’s a necessary program, especially in our region, because we’re the only community college here in this area that services over 260,000 people.”
Graduate of the Administration of Justice program, Ray Urrutia, says the skills he learned in the classroom are helping him shine in his career. His work with the Riverside County Department of Behavioral Health, Substance Abuse, Prevention Programs, and Mobile Crisis Teams are helping him put in the work towards his career aspirations and helping him make a difference within the community.
“The ADJ program at Norco College has helped me to succeed in my career and educational goals,” says Urrutia. “The skills that I have learned during my time at Norco has prepared me in the area of public service, including networking and collaborating with law enforcement agencies, local communities, service programs, and most importantly, the service of our underserved communities.”
Ultimately, Urrutia says his motivation for success is thanks to the foundation he built in the Administration of Justice program at Norco College. He says, “It has propelled me to dream big and strive for excellence as I continue to make steps towards pursuing a career in law.”
Not only does the Administration of Justice program prepare college students for a successful criminal justice career, but an agreement with JFK High School Middle College offers high school students the unique opportunity to earn their high school diploma and college degree simultaneously.
JFK High School Middle College sits at the entrance of Norco College’s campus and gives students a high school experience with a strong introduction to college curriculum. The Administration of Justice program at Norco College offers dual and concurrent enrollment programs for high school students at JFK, along with a noncredit, tuition-free CERT program, teaching FEMA curriculum for community emergency response and preparedness.
The program is also looking to expand its noncredit course offerings to include a certificate in Emergency Preparedness and Public Safety. These courses will be designed for everyone in the region to become disaster prepared, be versed in emergency preparedness and first aid, and offer a variety of other classes that will help residents when a disaster or other incident occurs.
“We have dual enrollment programs, we have concurrent enrollment programs,” explains Dr. Williams. “We just started a noncredit CERT program, using the FEMA curriculum for community emergency response … So, we’re just growing.”
From the work at JFK High School Middle College to the collaboration with the Corona Police Department, these versatile partnerships are offering students with the best career outcome possible — and Dr. Williams says students are reaping the rewards.
“I’ve got my first student that was just now accepted into Pepperdine Law School,” Dr. Williams proudly states. “We’re getting a lot of success stories and we’re putting it out there, and I’m just being very vigilant over it.”
For more information about the Administration of Justice program at Norco College, visit their program page at www.norcocollege.edu/schools/sbs/adj.