Academy preps students for public safety careers

Students in the Freehold Regional High School District’s Law Enforcement and Public Safety Academy (LEPS) at Manalapan High School are striving to serve their community.

The four-year program is designed for students who desire to engage in law enforcement activities and learning programs.

Principal Adam Angelozzi said, “The academy brings in students in the community who want to contribute to the growth of Manalapan High School. They are a huge part of the school community and are active in a diverse range of activities.”

Michelle Lilley, supervisor of LEPS, said the program started in 2006 and has grown over the years.

“Our goal is to appeal to the student who wants to get into law enforcement,” she said. “That involves any law enforcement components or anything related to public safety.”

Lilley said there are about 120 students in LEPS. The first year’s curriculum covers laws and general background information; the second year delves into the process of public safety involvement; the third year’s curriculum provides a forensic science focus; and the final year (senior year) is a combination of all the classes and involves more experimental learning.

Lilley said LEPS will introduce an online aspect in the spring that will enhance each student’s curriculum.

“We are allowing students to pursue course work and preparing them for a career path they believe they want to go into after high school,” she said. “They practice not only in the classroom, but in real life experiences, too.”

Ed Wall, a retired lieutenant with the Parsippany Police Department, is the LEPS instructor and said each year is a building block for the students.

“It is a four-year program that teaches students about law enforcement, firefighting and all government-type work that relates to public safety,” Wall said. “We involve a lot of different things. It is a great program, the students seem to enjoy it, and we have been fortunate.”

Lilley said seniors may take classes for college credit at Brookdale Community College, or work in a structured learning experience in an organization side-by-side with professionals for high school credit.

Brian Boyce, the supervisor of the structured learning experience, said LEPS is fortunate to have strong relationships with organizations such as the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, the Monmouth County Courthouse, CentraState Medical Center, and more.

“Students have the opportunity to gain some exposure into different realms of law enforcement and public safety,” Boyce said. “I think it gives them a sense of purpose, a little extra focus and sense of direction in school. It is a great experience for them.”

Senior Brianna Clark is currently interning at CentraState Medical Center, Freehold Township.

“Coming into the program, I wanted to go into forensics, but the program has helped me find my way,” she said. “The (staff) really cares about the students and the teachers and staff help you find the direction you want to go in.”

Senior Daniel Gaul said LEPS teaches discipline and shows students how they can help and protect people.

“I grew up around police officers and firefighters and I knew I wanted to help people when I was young,” he said. “I heard about the program and I thought it was the best option to start my career.”

Senior Peter Evangelista said, “LEPS has shown me all the different doors and opened a bunch of opportunities for me.”

“Without the support we receive from local law enforcement and county emergency management organizations, we would be at a disadvantage,” Lilley said. “Those type of service organizations help contribute to our success.”

— P.J. Candido