Sixteen cadets graduated on May 12 from the Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) program at Vance-Granville Community College, in a ceremony held in the Civic Center on Main Campus. After passing the state certification exam, all are authorized to work in any law enforcement agency in North Carolina.
Graduates of VGCC’s 100th BLET class included Joshua Adam Bailey and Ryan Hulett Woodlief, both of the Vance County Sheriff’s Office; Tyler Brady Currin and Leigh Hester, both of the Granville County Sheriff’s Office; Bronson Douglas Murphy of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office; Matthew Scott Craft, Katherine Leigh Keville and Melinda Ann Hester, all of the Durham County Sheriff’s Office; Jason Lee Grainger, Zeb Landon Robinson, Brittany Lauren Strother and Daniel Scott Watson, all of the Henderson Police Department; Kenneth William Fitzsimmons, Jr., Joshua Wayne Garrett, Matthew Ryan Groves and Mark Anthony Williamson.
The ceremony began with a presentation of colors by students from the ROTC program at Northern Vance High School, and the singing of the national anthem by NVHS student Shadrea Durham.
In welcoming remarks, Dr. Stelfanie Williams, the president of VGCC, thanked the many representatives of local and state law enforcement agencies in attendance for partnering with the college. “Without your sponsorship of students, providing instructors to teach courses, helping us to continually develop the curriculum, and through the countless other ways that you show your commitment, this program would not be possible,” the president said. Williams congratulated the cadets on their achievements. “Protect and serve in a way that reflects your personal integrity, the integrity of this fine college and the integrity of the profession of law enforcement,” she charged them.
Serving as guest speaker for the ceremony was Trooper Michael Potts of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. Potts, a former professional baseball player with teams including the Durham Bulls and Milwaukee Brewers, is now assigned to the training division of the Highway Patrol. In 2013, he was seriously wounded in the line of duty during a traffic stop in Durham. “A career in law enforcement will have its hills and valleys, its ups and downs, but what a rewarding career it is,” Potts told the graduating students. “You will now have the honor and privilege to wear a uniform and a badge of courage and represent the communities you serve. Only a few have that honor.”
Graduates selected Creedmoor Police Chief Keith King, a graduate of VGCC’s 54th BLET class and a part-time instructor for the program, to speak on behalf of the instructors who trained them. King praised the class, saying, “You’ve risen to every challenge.” He also stressed the importance of personal accountability and of “leading by example.”
In his remarks, Cadet Matthew Craft, leader of the class, said that the program’s faculty and staff were “extraordinary people” who imparted the knowledge they had gained from their training and experience. “We are here to continue their tradition and add our own training and experience to these proud ranks: to serve the community, safeguard lives and property, protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, the peaceful against violence and disorder, and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality and justice,” Craft said.
Andrea Ferguson, presiding over her first graduation ceremony as program coordinator, handed out awards to the top students in the class in three categories. Fitzsimmons earned the Physical Training Award for scoring highest in the various fitness tests the cadets undergo. Robinson won the “Top Gun” Award for having the highest accuracy score in weapons firing. Leigh Hester took home the Academic Achievement Award for having the top grade average in the written tests each cadet must pass. The “Golden Heart” Award, bestowed upon a cadet for going above and beyond to help all the other cadets selflessly, was presented to Melinda Hester.
Finally, Ferguson presented a special award to recognize Chief Melvin G. Smith for his 40 years of dedicated service as a VGCC law enforcement training instructor, including several years as the BLET program’s coordinator. Smith was an officer and leader at the Henderson Police Department from 1964 until his retirement as Chief of Police in 1997. Also in keeping with the 100th graduation milestone, Ferguson presented a slide show featuring photos of previous classes during a reception following the ceremony.
For more information on the BLET program, contact Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org.