While one group of students closely questioned a Central staff member who had been pressed into service as the "victim" of a supposed burglary, 16-year-old junior Francisco Cano, acting as a crime scene analyst, took photos inside the mock "residence."
"This course is really interesting because you can actually learn firsthand stuff about a future career," Francisco said as he hunched down to take close-up shots of broken glass and a partial footprint. "I want to be a criminal psychologist."
Working with him was another 16-year-old junior, Trevor Williams. Trevor was busy analyzing where best to place yellow evidence number tags at the scene.
Trevor's verdict on the course was, "This is really fun — and educational. There's a lot more to it than I thought."
A three-year course, the academy is funded at the state level by California Partnership Academies and has been in place at Central since the 1997-98 school year.
The academy course contains specialized classes geared to law enforcement — English, history, science, biology and technology classes.
Mike Corey, the academy's science teacher, is clearly enthusiastic about teaching the course.
Corey explained how in biology class, the students will analyze synthetic blood samples or examine a fingerprint lifted from the crime scene under a microscope.
"We look at all the evidence from the point of biology, chemistry and physics and we really stress writing and communication in this course," Corey said.
Saying that many students who take the course go on to major in criminal justice at Imperial Valley College and others use it as a stepping stone to a military career, Corey said, "What we've seen over the years with many of the students is that they gain in self-confidence and discipline through being involved with the program.
"I really enjoy teaching this course as a lot of the time kids will ask me, ‘What has biology got to do with what I'm going to be doing in life?' and this way we can say, ‘Look, it's going to be used here, it's going to be used there.' It's skill and knowledge they can use."
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>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or email@example.com