As Cadets Sweat, Families See Growth
FITCHBURG — Fitchburg State University’s George J. Bourque Gymnasium feels like the inside of an oven. Despite the beginning of a weekend-long heat wave, police academy recruits hustle.
Dripping sweat, recruits hold planks, leap for burpees and squat. Today, they perform for an audience: Parents and loved ones fill the bleachers, watching the team complete defense tactics training.
“To see it today makes it a little bit more real,” said Joan Gower, mother of Acton recruit Andrew Gower.
For the first time, the Fitchburg State Police Academy welcomed family members to observe a day in the life of a recruit.
“I didn’t realize the academy piece is so intense,” said Angela Ferreira, Attleboro recruit Jessica Ferreira’s mother.
After graduating Fitchburg State with bachelor’s degrees in criminal science, the recruits entered the 17-week academy. If they pass Municipal Police Training Committee standards, they will be certified police officers by the end of the summer.
Each day, the recruits meet at 7 a.m. — and not a minute later — for 1½ hours of physical training.
After a quick shower, they are expected in class by 9 a.m., where local officers teach Municipal Police Training Committee curriculum.
After class, Academy Director Lisa Lane McCarty usually finds the recruits assembled in a circle in the parking lot, sharing notes and discussing lessons.
“I’ve watched these young men and women go through some tough times just to get here,” she said.
She has advised the students since they joined the program as college freshmen.
“It’s so sort of wonderful to me to see where these young people came from,” McCarty said to the group of parents who assembled for orientation.
Before coming to Fitchburg State about 2 ½ years ago, McCarty worked at the Boylston Police Academy. The academy there held family orientation every year, she said.
Because recruits tended to be a bit older, attendees typically consisted of spouses and children.
Inspired by the success of the Boylston academy’s orientation, McCarty initiated something similar at Fitchburg State.
“I’ll do this every year now,” she said. “You can see how proud they (the parents) are watching their children do something that’s not very easy.”
A few parents teared up as they watched videos of the recruits’ journey and observed training.
“We hear the stories when she gets home, but there’s really nothing like being here and seeing it,” Angela Ferreira said.
While she worries about the dangers of the job, she knows her daughter, Jessica, is prepared.
“She’s a strong girl, and she’ll make a fantastic police officer,” she said.
“To see it (the training) sort if validates that they’re working hard,” said Glenn Ferreira, Jessica’s father.
Many of the parents have noticed their children grow — physically and mentally — over the last nine weeks in the academy.
Kim Kendall, mother to Leominster recruit Jayson Urato, admires her son’s determination. He played football through college, all while attending classes and participating in the police academy,
“If he can get through this, he can get through anything,” she said, adding that she reminds him of this all the time.
“This is a great program, and Director Lane (McCarty) has been very accessible for parents too,” Kendall said.
It can be hard to watch a child push through the academy, said Patty Socrat, mother of Douglass recruit Alaina Socrat.
There are many rough days, when Patty feels for her daughter.
But the certification will be well worth the struggle, she said.
“She (Alaina) has compassion and empathy, too, which is really what you want in an officer, especially in this day and age,” said Alaina’s father, Aaron Socrat.
Every parent, as well as McCarty, beamed with pride throughout the event.
“I’m a mentor, I’m a disciplinarian, and I’m always telling them that at graduation I’m lucky if I don’t cry,” said McCarty, who is awed by how far the recruits have come.
And it’s only Week 9.
Nicole DeFeudis: @Nicole_DeFeudis on Twitter