Reseda High magnet school cadets headed for LAPD

Sunday, April 13, 2008 @ 01:04 AM Author:

By Dennis McCarthy, Columnist

Los Angeles’ big three sat under an arch of decorative balloons at Reseda High School on Wednesday morning reading numbers they couldn’t quite believe. Had to be some kind of mistake, the mayor, police chief and school superintendent agreed. Nobody gets these kinds of numbers today. A 100 percent graduation rate, with 97 percent of the 168 students standing in front of them headed for college. Forget it. Can’t be done. Not in public schools where the dropout rate continues to rise. Well, it is being done, and for the third year in a row at the Reseda High Police Academy Magnet. “This is one of those programs you want to model and put in a bottle,” LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer III said as a dozen proud mothers stood off to the side, beaming at their children. Their husbands would have been there, too, they said. But they had to work. “Nothing in life is ever 100 percent, but you guys are 100 percent,” said LAPD Chief William Bratton. “You are this city’s success story.” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa walked through rows of students, shaking their hands and calling them an inspiration. “This city is proud of you,” the mayor said, wishing Roberta Weintraub – former LAUSD school board president, who was ill Wednesday – could be there to see what her idea of nurturing home-grown, future LAPD officers in magnet schools had produced. A 100 percent high school graduation rate of boys and girls who think hard work, discipline and respect are something to strive for, not avoid.”My mother wanted to be a police officer when she was young, but she couldn’t,” said 17-year-old cadet Nicole Jovel. “She became a nurse instead. I’m going to be a police officer, an LAPD detective some day.” None of these kids was pushed into this program. It wasn’t their parents’ or teachers’ idea, they say. It’s something they’ve wanted since they were students together at Mulholland Middle School – Reseda High’s feeder school, which has a police magnet program. They say they’re proud being the kids on campus wearing a cadet uniform one day a week for drills, proud of having their own special academic and physical exercise curriculum to prepare them for a career in law enforcement, which about 75 percent of them achieve. Sure, some of the other kids on campus give them a little lip sometimes when they walk by, but not many. “Some kids are disrespectful, but the majority are respectful,” Nicole said. “All of us have friends who wish they had joined with us when they were younger, but now they’re too old as juniors and seniors.” There are police academy magnet programs at five high schools in Los Angeles, including Monroe High in North Hills. More than half the students are girls. “Girl power,” said Lisa Simmons, widow of LAPD SWAT Officer Randal Simmons, who was shot and killed in February during a standoff in Winnetka. She made a special trip to the school to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the program and to meet these kids who wanted to follow in her husband’s footsteps in this city. “Randy was the best of the best, and we expect you to be the best of the best,” she said to heavy applause. “Go out into our community and make us proud.” That’s exactly what they plan to do, the kids say – when they get old enough. All of the graduating seniors are still too young to become police officers. “You have to be at least 20<MD+,%30,%55,%70>1/<MD-,%0,%55,%70>2 to join the department, and most of us are only 17,” said Hector Lobos, a cadet sergeant. “I’m going to CSUN, and after I graduate I plan on becoming an LAPD officer.” L.A.’s big three smiled. The numbers didn’t lie. Some things in life are 100 percent. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. dennis.mccarthy@dailynews.com, 818-713-3749

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