All good things must come to an end. Dang it !
On July 31, 2014, we the 43rd class of IRCSO's Citizen's Academy graduated. And we did it in style!
This time when we walked into the auditorium we had become so accustomed to, the scene had been transformed! Deputy Roberta Barker and her team which included IRCSO volunteer Jim Luby had replaced the rectangular tables with round ones covered in nice white tablecloths and decorations. Sublime jazz music played softly and the lights were dim. Aromas of Italian food - provided lovingly by BACI restaurant - filled the air, and we even had a cake with our photo printed on it!
The Main Man himself Sheriff Deryl Loar was there to welcome us, as were many of our previous instructors. In typical graduation fashion, Sheriff Loar presented each of us one by one with a certificate of completion and - my favorite! - a tiny, shiny IRCSO pin. "We appreciate that you have taken to time to get to know us and to study what we do each day for the people of Indian River County," he said. "We have an excellent team here and I am very proud of our men and women who risk so much to serve the public. The fact that they enjoy their work so much and are so dedicated makes my job much easier and I am grateful to them. Please tell your friends and neighbors about Citizen's Academy and that we hope to see them here soon."
Next we were treated to a decadent dinner, served by our very own instructors!
Sign up for Citizen's Academy (it is FREE!) here: http://ircsheriff.org/citizens-academy.cfm and by calling (772) 978-6224.
BONUS: Citizen's Academy Graduate Success Story! Read on...
"I see a goal, and to get to that goal you have to do the work," says Chris Dickeson.
I met Chris this summer while we were both taking the Indian River County Sheriff's Office Citizen's Academy course.
"At Citizen's Academy, every instructor that we have had - you just see their eyes light up when they talk about their specific tasks," he says. "I have seen that in my dad. And I want that too."
From a distance, Chris appears to be highly motivated, confident and passionate about law enforcement. All of this is true. But when you take the time to get to know Chris, you realize he is a true 'success story.'
"I was born Christopher Allen Hernandez in April of 1991 in Hollywood, Florida," he explains. "I was born with alcohol in my system and I had jaundice. When I was 14 or 15, I learned that my biological parents did drugs, and that my biological father walked out on us. It is the classic story, and it was not looking good for me," he says, laughing, showing a great sense of humor.
While still an infant, Chris was put into a foster home along with 9 or 10 other kids. "We had to share beds and food and it was almost like a factory."
Meanwhile a couple from Port St. Lucie who could not have children of their own longed to find a child to adopt.
"The adoption process so complicated, and eventually my (adoptive) parents were referred to the foster home I was in and were told 'maybe you will find someone there'," Chris says.
AND THERE HE WAS IN HIS LITTLE BASSINET!
"My mom describes it as 'we just had a connection.' She says I just looked at them and they looked at me - and they just knew. They picked me up and tried me out. Everything looks good," he laughs again. "We just clicked!"
As with anything worth having, sometimes we have to work a little hard for it, and that was the case with David and Leonor Dickeson. It took a lot of visits and stages before they were finally allowed to adopt Chris. Even on the final day of the adoption in June of 1993, the new family realized they were in the wrong courthouse! They wrapped up their little guy and literally ran the 7 blocks to the right place - in a suit and dress in the summer heat - and made it just in the nick of time. They made their home in Port St. Lucie where Chris continues to live.
Chris has always been drawn toward law enforcement. His girlfriend Courtney's mother Diane Murphy works at Kountry Kitchen restaurant and one morning a group of IRCSO officers were there for breakfast. Diane overheard them talking about Citizen's Academy and asked them for more information which she passed on to Chris. The new session was starting that very week, and so the timing was excellent!
"Having been through the IRCSO Citizen's Academy, I have decided to go to the Police Academy," he says with a giant smile. "I have seen the type of people I would be working with and I really love the community. I would like to start in Corrections and I hope one day to work with the K-9's."
"My life has been a journey and it is a good one," he says. "I don't know how I would have turned out being exposed to drugs and the street. But I do know that from my character and the way I have matured that my DNA is OK! And that probably those were just things my biological parents did, not who they are. My automatic choices are positive and I am pulled to the good. I have always had that vibe. I am 23 and I have never had a drink or smoked or done drugs."
Would he like to meet his biological parents?
"Yes, I have a lot of desire to meet them," he says. "I would like them to see how I have developed as a person and also to see my traits in them would be amazing. I have paperwork on them and I tried to track them down but it led nowhere. My last name was Hernandez which is a common name. It's a big ocean," he says, again laughing.
Of course Chris also credits his (adoptive) parents for the way he has turned out. "They really molded me the right way and put me in the right direction. My (adoptive) mom says I have her attitude because I am a go-getter, and my (adoptive) dad has always taught me that when we fall, we get up, brush ourselves off and keep moving. He also loves law enforcement and says 'you have to love your work'. So I am just going to keep moving and there is no stopping me! And it is because of the support of these people in my life - my (adoptive) parents, my girlfriend and her mother."
I am an official, fully vetted volunteer with the Indian River County Sheriff's Office (Citizen's Academy, background checks, fingerprinted, etc.). Since my expertise is photo-journalism, producing these stories is one way I give back to my community.
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