Forget “Pomp and Circumstance.” The theme song at one graduation at West Austin’s Murchison Middle School was the theme from the police show “Cops” beginning with the familiar “Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do? What you gonna do when they come for you?”
That’s because the students who walked across the state at this May 28 event weren’t seniors. They were cadets from the school’s Junior Police Academy, a national program created to “motivate young people to be outstanding citizens through law enforcement education.”
“It’s fun,” said AISD Officer Patricia Montemayor, better known as “Officer P,” of the JPA class she’s been teaching at Murchison for years.
“Opening a book is one thing. But teaching them how things work is another.”
Friends and family who gathered in the MM’S library to celebrate this year’s graduation ceremony also got a chance to hear from some of the key players in the JPA program. Executive Officer Phillip LeConte, who founded the program in honor of his police officer dad who, with his friends, cared for and inspired him when he was growing up.
“When I was young I used to get pulled over by the police all the time,” he joked, as he described how his dad and his officer friends became his friends and mentors by checking in and checking up on him.
He paraphrased Ernest Hemingway to describe the relationship he experienced.
“The world is a fine thing and it’s worth fighting for,” he said. “And I was that fine thing that they shifted focus to fight for.” Then he turned toward the graduating cadets to tell them, “Now, you are those fine things.”
“They are our future,” said Officer P. If we can keep them safe that’s what we’re here for.”
And even though she won’t have the chance to teach her cadets next year, she hopes they’ll use the law lessons they’ve learned in her class to help her keep the community and school safe in the future.
“I hope all my JPA cadets have a safe summer,” said Officer P. But if anything comes up, you know what to do! Next year I want you to be my eyes and ears on campus.”